Two men went on trial at Cork District Court yesterday on charges arising from an investigation of alleged use of illegal migrant workers in the fishing industry.
Leonard Hyde, aged 62, of Four Winds, Weavers Point, Crosshaven, Co Cork, and Pat O’Mahony, aged 51, of 69 Elton Wood, Kinsale, Co Cork, each faced the same two charges. They both denied the charges, believing they were in full compliance with regulations.
The first charge states that on October 5, 2015, at Hugh Coveney Pier, Crosshaven, he did employ a named non-national in the State other than in accordance with an employment permit issued by the Minister for Enterprise, contrary to sections of the Employment Permits Act 2003.
The second charge states that on March 23, 2015, within the State, he did knowingly facilitate entry into the State of a person whom he knew or had reasonable cause to believe was an illegal immigrant or a person who intended to seek asylum contrary to section 2 of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000.
Both accused said two Filipino nationals were treated with every consideration and respect while working on the Labardie Fisher.
Mr Hyde told gardaí that when Demie Balbin Omol, 40, got seriously ill six weeks after arriving in Ireland he was visited in hospital, provided with cash, credit to phone home, and pyjamas.
Both men told gardaí the Filipinos were provided with whatever food they liked, cash for groceries and sundries, phone credit so they could call home, wifi, TV services, and regular time off.
Both had full control of their passports and could leave the trawler at any time when it was berthed in Cork, the court heard.
The trawler operators said they had entered a contract with a shipping agent, Diamond Marine, in 2015 for the supply of the two trained Filipino fishermen for a monthly fee of $1,075 per worker.
The agent paid an agreed amount of this money to the men’s families in the Philippines. Both trawler operators also paid the agent an upfront fee. “We couldn’t get any Irish staff,” Mr O’Mahony told gardaí.
They said this was true of nine out of ten Irish boats.
The investigation was launched following allegations in a series of articles two years ago by The Guardian in the UK.
Inspector John Deasy said the charges followed a visit to Crosshaven pier by Det Garda Maureen Moriarty of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on October 5 2015.
David Browne, defending, told the court that both men had been “guaranteed” by the agent that all paperwork was in order for the two Filipino nationals.
He said one of the workers, who had to return to the Philippines because of the controversy, was heartbroken to leave the job and begged to be allowed to stay.
Both Filipinos returned home from Ireland.
More than 30 fishermen from Castletownbere, Dunmore East, Kinsale, Ballycotton, and Crosshaven attended the court hearing to support the two defendants.
The case was adjourned until March 8.
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