The concessionary visa arrangement allowing fishermen from outside the European Economic Area to be employed on vessels operating within the 12 mile limit has now ended, the UK Border Agency has announced.
The UK Border Agency is warning owners, masters and agents who did not apply that they now face fines and prosecution for any breaches of the immigration laws.
The three month application period for the concessionary visa ended on 31 May 2010.
Despite being widely publicised and the UK Border Agency receiving many enquiries, only 44 in-time applications for the concession were received, despite estimates that many more non European fishermen are employed in the industry.
Phil Taylor, regional director of the UK Border Agency in Scotland and Northern Ireland said:
‘We are disappointed with the low take up of this concession, which took considerable time and effort working with the industry and interested parties to develop. As we made clear when the concession was launched, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any business employing non-European fishermen employed in breach of the law.
‘Any non-European Economic Area crew members working in in-shore waters who have not obtained the correct visa must not be employed, and must return to their home country immediately.
‘Owners and masters should be aware that enforcement action will be taken where a breach is uncovered and crew found to be employed illegally will be dealt with as immigration offenders. Employers will face fines of up to £10,000 per employee under the UK Border Agency Civil Penalty scheme. In addition, employers may be prosecuted under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which carries a maximum custodial sentence of two years, and an unlimited fine.
‘Any owner, master or agent involved in bringing non-EEA crew into the UK intending to use them in breach of the law may also face prosecution for facilitation which carries penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.’
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