A Garda spokesman said “days of action” took place under Operation Eggshell on both sides of the border on October 5 and October 7.
The primary objective was the detection of labour exploitation in the fishing industry, with particular emphasis on any indicators of human trafficking. Officers from the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit and the Garda National Protective Services Bureau were involved in the operations in Castletownbere and Howth.
As well as gardaí, the action here involved the Revenue Commissioners, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the naval service and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). The WRC led the inspections of 38 vessels in port (22 in Castletownbere and 16 in Howth) while the LÉ Niamh and LÉ Orla assisted by boarding vessels at sea.
Gardaí said that while no human trafficking evidence was detected, suspected breaches found included offences under the Atypical Work Permit Scheme; employment law offences; immigration offences; and tax offences. Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne said immigration and human trafficking offences, including labour exploitation, were global issues and that it was “pleasing” to note that no cases of human trafficking were detected. He said “some matters will require follow up investigation by An Garda Síochána, Revenue and the WRC”.
While he said the joint task force was working well with the industry as demonstrated through the take up of the Atypical Work Permit Scheme introduced last year to address concerns in the industry, “there is still some room for improvement”.
He said there will be promotion of the scheme through briefing sessions with SFPA and gardaí in the months ahead, and by meeting industry representatives at key fishing ports throughout the State.
“This was phase one of the operation and further days of action will take place into the future,” he said.
The WRC said the day of action will make a significant contribution to promoting an awareness of effectively enforcing employment rights and employment permits legislation “with the overall objective of addressing labour exploitation in the fishing industry”.
Revenue said information collected from the operations will be analysed against the data held on its systems “allowing us to quickly and effectively identify and confront non-compliance”.
A spokesman for the International Transport Workers Federation, which campaigns to promote fair and safe conditions for seafarers, said: “The ITF welcomes this coordinated approach to the labour problems in the fishing industry, which is essential if the widespread exploitation of illegal fishers is to be stamped out.
“Since first highlighting the problem in 2009 the ITF has always sought to work with the industry and the statutory authorities to bring employment standards up to an acceptable international level. We would again ask the industry to engage with us to do so and eradicate rogue employers.”