A new investigative report has revealed poor working conditions and forced labor on Irish fishing vessels. A loophole in EU immigration law allows migrant workers, often recruited in their home countries by labor brokers, to pass through United Kingdom and Ireland on a transit visa en route to the ships. The transit visas are not intended to be used for workers on ships based in Irish waters. Workers, who typically hail from Egypt, Ghana, the Philippines, and India, often arrive on the ships heavily indebted to the labor brokers who arranged their employment.
Once on the vessels, workers are subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, are paid less than half the Irish minimum wage, and are forced to work for many days in a row with no rest days or overtime payments. These conditions have led to fatal accidents on some Irish fishing trawlers. The UK and Irish governments have stated that they are aware of the issue and are working to combat the labor trafficking.
Aside from the loophole that fishing vessels exploit to get workers on to their ships, these incidents highlight the involvement of labor brokers in exploitative employment situations. Labor recruitment agencies often arrange for employment in a number of the countries BSI identifies as having High or Severe working conditions ratings. However, the use of labor recruiting can allow for poor working conditions even in lower-risk countries such as Ireland. Fees owed to labor recruiters may leave workers in a state of debt bondage, unable to leave their current jobs. Additionally, the fishing industry is difficult to regulate since poor working conditions occur on boats that are far out at sea for days or weeks at a time.