Ireland looks set to scrap a work-permit scheme introduced in 2015 for non-European fishery workers after a review ordered by government recommended a transition to regular employment permits given to other immigrants.

On 11 October, after a delay of seven months, the Irish government finally approved the publication of the Review of the Atypical Scheme for non-EEA Crew in the Irish Fishing Fleet. Three governmental departments – agriculture, enterprise, and justice – approved recommendations in the review to the employment of non-European Economic Area fishers in the Irish fishing fleet.

The Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) for non-EEA Crew in the Irish fishing fleet was established in 2015 to regularize the status of non-European workers on Irish fishing vessels. But Ireland has faced international scrutiny since the U.S. State Department downgraded the country’s ranking in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2021, specifically mentioning labor abuse in Ireland’s fishing industry as part of its rationale.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), a union representing fishers working at sea and on land, previously called for the elimination of the visa scheme. The ITF has claimed the scheme effectively indentures workers to their employers and has led to poor pay and working conditions, while not allowing workers the right to pursue Irish citizenship or the right to bring family members into the country.

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