43. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she has received a report from An Garda Síochána on the raids that have been carried out on fishing ports in an effort to uncover abuses of migrant fishermen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37687/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy is aware, a Day of Action under 'Operation Egg Shell' took place on Wednesday 5th October concentrating on the ports of Castletownbere and Howth. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that 'Operation Egg Shell' was carried out as part of the North Atlantic Maritime Project of the Santa Marta Group. The Santa Marta Group is a global alliance of international Police Chiefs and Bishops working together with Civil Society to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery. Within this Group, Ireland has agreed to lead in the North Atlantic Fisheries Project with the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal, to prevent human trafficking and labour exploitation in the fisheries industry in the North Atlantic.
The Day of Action was coordinated by An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Workplace Relations Commission Inspectorate, the Irish Navy and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. Specially trained officers from the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau were involved in operations at both Castletownbere and Howth. These officers focused on finding people who demonstrated any indicators of human trafficking, particularly crew members of fishing vessels. Further objectives included:
- Identifying offences under the Atypical Work Permit Scheme for non-EEA crew in the Irish fishing fleet,
- Breaches of employment legislation,
- Immigration offences,
- Breaches of tax/revenue and customs offences,
- To apprehend suspects in the commission and/or the attempted commission of offences above and fully investigate, detect and prosecute (where possible) any offences outstanding against these suspects and groups, and
- Identify and support any suspected victims of human trafficking that might be found.
I am further informed by An Garda Síochána that inspections were carried out on 41 fishing vessels, 22 in Castletownbere, 16 in Howth, and three offshore inspections. Inspections at port were led by the Workplace Relations Commission Inspectorate, under Section 27 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015, accompanied and assisted by Gardaí and Revenue and Customs officials. The naval service carried out the offshore inspections.
No evidence of human trafficking or labour exploitation was found in any location. A number of suspected breaches of the atypical work permit scheme for non-EEA crew, were detected, as well as other suspected breaches of employment law, immigration law and tax offences. Both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Garda National Immigration Bureau are following up in relation to these suspected breaches.
The prevention and detection of human trafficking in all its forms and the protection of its victims has been a policing priority for An Garda Síochána for the past number of years and it remains a priority in 2016. Ireland's approach to the issue of Human Trafficking is set out in the Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking in Ireland which was published in October 2016 and sets out 65 Actions to be undertaken to address this issue. The Government recognises that trafficking in human beings undermines the principles of human rights and dignity of the person, it will not tolerate persons who engage in any part of trafficking.