Armed Garda Raids – a dark day for the Industry

On Wednesday the 5th of October 2016 at ports in Howth, Co Dublin, and Castletownbere, Co Cork, raids were conducted on foot of the allowing non EEA fishermen to have access to the Atypical Work visa and lawfully engage in work in the fishing fleet on Irish vessels.

The issue and point of concern was the fact that in addition to personal from the Department of Justice, the WRC, Immigration officers from An Gardai Siochana, Armed Gardai along with Canine support were engaged.

This was supposed to be a raid about Human Trafficking based in no small part to media converge starting with the Report in the Guardian Newspaper in November 2015 and followed by claims by the International Transport Workers Federation that not withstanding the scheme, there were thousands of undocumented workers on Irish vessels.

As the Assistant Commissioner clarified after the raid, there was no evidence of human trafficking and in fact the industry has clearly embraced the Visa Scheme. Over 250 fishermen have availed of the scheme.

While of course there are some serious issues with how the scheme is operating, Ireland is the envy of our Neighbors in Norther Ireland and in particular Scotland. I have fielded several calls from Lawyers in these Countries to see how the scheme is working and what has been learned from the operation of the scheme.

There has always been a degree of heightened regulation within this industry that does not exist elsewhere. The SFPA, the Navy and the MSO have very extensive powers which go far beyond what most other industries would have to endure.

On the spot inspections by SFPA officers, Naval boarding without notice and MSO port state controls are part of the every day life of a fishermen. There have even been dawn raids over black landings.

Electricians, plumbers and even Solicitors do not fact this level of on the spot,no notice, scrutiny.

What was concerning about these raids is the following:

  1. What prompted the raids? Was it media commentary?
  2. ?Why the deployment of armed force?
  3. Why the deployment of the canine units?
  4. Why the aggression?

It is a dark day because of these questions. It is not one that can be readily squared away.

The Industry should consider what response it should take. 2017 should be the year that the industry ensures that it is singled out no more.

Dermot Conway