In a report by the Scotsman, Scottish skippers have been granted a vital reprieve from the forced deportation of foreign fishermen working on their boats.
An action plan, which will give Scotland’s fishing fleets a breathing space to avoid critical crew shortages, has been agreed with the Home Office, following the intervention of Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary.
Scottish trawlers have long relied on hundreds Filipino and Eastern European fishermen to help crew their boats because of a shortage of local trained crewmen. The work is hard and crew have to brave severe weather conditions.
Concerns about the use of foreign crewmen were first raised in August last year following the deaths of two Filipino fishermen and a Latvian crewman in a fire on board a trawler at Fraserburgh harbour.
Following routine inspections by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) over March and April this year, the owners of 20 fishing boats in Britain, including an unspecified number of Scottish vessels, received enforcement letters ordering that their Filipino crewmen should be “repatriated” by a deadline of 2 July.
Last month Angus MacNeil, MP was fighting to save the jobs of Filipino fishermen working on Scottish boats after the UK Border Agency claimed that “vulnerable” overseas fishermen were being exploited by the Scottish fishing industry.
But yesterday the Scottish Government announced that the repatriation orders had been put on hold following talks between Mr Lochhead and Phil Woolas, the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration.
A Government spokesman said:
“The UK Border Agency has now written again to vessel owners who were recently issued with notices to repatriate their Filipino crew, giving them more time while further consideration is given to the matter.”
Mr Lochhead said:
“I welcome Mr Woolas’ commitment to work with the Scottish Government and the UK Border Agency to resolve this difficult situation.”
The reprieve was welcomed by Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. He said:
“We are working as hard as possible with the Scottish Government to reinvigorate recruitment to the industry, but fishing is not for everyone and the process will take time.”
The reprieve will come as welcome relief for the hundreds of Filipino and other overseas fishermen working for Scottish fishing vessels.
However, the loophole which allows non EU workers to be employed “off-shore” can lead to exploitation. We have met a number of Filipino workers employed by UK companies on vessels off-shore without a Work Permit (or permission under Tier 2 of the points-based system).
Several were forced to jump ship because of extremely low pay and poor working conditions.
Earlier this week Immigration Matters reported that SNP Home Affairs Spokesperson, Pete Wishart called for Scotland to have more control over its immigration policy. See: Scotland wants own immigration system
Unlike like the South East of England, Scotland’s population has fallen in recent years and its needs differ from other parts of the UK.
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