Fishing News

Loopholes in UK law are allowing vessel owners to violate migrant fishers’ human rights

Staff from the Philippines, Ghana and Indonesia are successfully trapped on UK fishing boats for as much as a yr and are being instructed they are going to be deported or black-listed in the event that they attempt to depart, even when they go ashore for a quick keep.

“We wish the UK to cease utilizing this transit visa for migrant fishers and swap to one thing that may give folks higher safety, like a talented employee visa,” mentioned Chris Williams, a fisheries knowledgeable and socio-economic specialist from the ITF Fisheries Part, who authored the report. “Using transit visas for migrant fishers engaged on UK vessels is leading to human and labour rights violations. The ITF receives experiences from migrant fishers suggesting that there’s systematic labour exploitation.”

How transit visas are misused

Seafarers’ Transit Visas are meant to permit seafarers to hitch ships leaving UK ports for worldwide waters (a container ship going to China, for instance). Crew from overseas can keep within the UK for as much as seven days whereas they wait for his or her ship to depart. Worldwide waters start 22.2km (12 nautical miles) off the UK’s shoreline.

Fishing boat house owners are being allowed to misuse this transit visa in using migrants. They argue that by taking boats out into worldwide waters they fulfil the visa’s necessities. Nevertheless, the visa just isn’t applicable as a result of the vessels quickly come again to a UK port to land their catches.

A loophole in UK immigration guidelines implies that fishers don’t technically re-enter the UK till they get off the boat. In a merciless recreation, the legislation permits them to enter the UK however retains them holed-up on boats for so long as a yr. The lodging on fishing boats just isn’t normally appropriate for long-term stays.

“For any fishers dwelling onboard a vessel, there’s a heavy reliance on the vessel proprietor or its skipper for all the pieces, from their working and dwelling circumstances, to entry to meals and different necessities,” mentioned Williams. “We now have grave considerations that some fishing vessel house owners proceed to take advantage of the weak place these staff are in with unfair, and even unlawful practices, at work”.

“We wish the UK to shut this loophole within the legislation. Presently it says a transit visa can be utilized if a ship operates ‘wholly or primarily’ in worldwide waters with out specifying what which means. We expect the legislation must be modified to make issues extra particular – we wish a ship to spend 70% of its time in worldwide waters earlier than a transit visa can be utilized,” mentioned Williams.

Transit visas allow abuse

It’s fast and low cost for house owners to make use of the transit visa system, however uncertainty concerning the guidelines has put an excessive amount of energy into their palms. Some are utilizing that energy to maintain their prices down, treating migrants as less-than staff, paying them a fraction of what they pay UK or EEA fishers on the identical boat.

Migrant fishers are sometimes paid £1000 a month however typically employers make them work seven days per week and sometimes 16 hours a day. This equates to a charge of pay of solely about £3 an hour, lower than 1 / 4 of the UK minimal wage. A UK or EEA fisher with the identical expertise on the identical boat might be entitled to a share of what the catch earns after prices. That is sometimes works out at far more than the minimal wage.

In 2014, the UK Human Trafficking Centre revealed 74 potential victims of exploitation within the Scottish fishing sector. Scallop fisheries have been identified as being at notably excessive threat. In 2018, each case of recent slavery within the UK fishing business associated to victims who arrived on seafarers’ transit visas.

“The UK is a wealthy G7 nation, signed as much as the UN Worldwide Labour Group’s Conference C188 that’s supposed to guard fishers’ rights,” mentioned Williams. “Incoherence between fisheries and immigration insurance policies are made worse by way of departments working in silos below differing laws. An absence of authorized readability on working inside or outdoors UK territorial waters, in addition to on shore depart, must be urgently resolved.”

“Transit visas are the place to begin for a cycle of abuse that ought to by no means have been tolerated. Altering the system to shut the loophole might be a significant step in defending employee rights. That change is urgently wanted.”

The report, A one way ticket to labour exploitation: how transit visa loopholes are getting used to take advantage of migrant fishers on UK fishing vessels, is accessible for download here.

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