A taskforce looking into alleged abuses of non-EU workers in the fishing industry has announced changes to protect “very exposed and vulnerable” migrant workers.
Those already working illegally in Ireland will be granted permits before the application system is opened up to those wanting to travel here for employment.
A total of 500 permits will be granted.
The taskforce was set up three weeks ago after a Guardian report alleged that illegal workers were being used as cheap labour on some Irish trawlers.
Mr Coveney, who chaired the taskforce, said: “There is going to be a quota of 500 work permits that will go to the worker as opposed to the employer, but obviously the employer will have to put a contract of employment in place for that worker before that permit will be granted in a person’s passport.
“The taskforce has worked rapidly to examine potential solutions which will bring about a significantly improved situation for non-EEA workers in the Irish fishing industry."
He said the scheme which will “greatly reduce the possibilities for the abuse of migrant workers by unscrupulous employers” will be available to those already working in an illegal status in Ireland.
“In other words it is a way of regularising the position for people who are currently undocumented essentially and therefore vulnerable.
“After that first three months there will be a cap of 500 people and that will be rolling, so if people leave, other people can come.
"It’s a one-year permit which is renewable at the end of the year,” Mr Coveney said.
Junior Minister Jed Nash, who was also part of the taskforce, said the taskforce, which spoke to both fishing bodies and groups representing migrants, had achieved a substantial amount in a very short time.
He said:“We are now in a situation where there will be an established employee, employer situation under Irish law and statutory minimum rates of pay will apply to those working in the industry.”