525. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice the number of visas that were issued in the past five years including location and country of origin for the fishing industry in tabular form; the engagements her office has had with the fishing industry to determine future requirements for foreign workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47828/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): As the Deputy is aware, the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) was established as a cross Departmental response to address the matter of non-EEA workers on certain categories of vessels in the Irish fishing fleet, who are not currently eligible for permission under the employment permit system of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE). The Scheme provided, for the first time, a framework for the employment of non-EEA SeaFishers within defined segments of the Irish fishing fleet.
The Scheme was welcomed as a solution to the risk of exploitation and to guarantee employment rights and protections to non-EEA SeaFishers availing of the Scheme.
The Scheme is monitored by an Oversight Committee chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Any abuses or otherwise of the employment conditions in the Irish fishing industry is a matter for the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office, and other appropriate authorities of the State.
The application process for permission under the AWS for SeaFishers includes the drawing up of a contract which includes: the 12 month duration of the contract; payment of wages in line with the national minimum wage; that the medical needs of the employee must be provided for by the employer; and when an employment is terminated that the employer must repatriate the employee to their home country. This contract, prepared by a solicitor practising in the State on behalf of the employer, is submitted in the first instance to the Central Depository administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and thereafter an application is made to my Department for an immigration permission.
The role of my Department is to grant an immigration permission on the basis of the terms, conditions and workforce caps set by other Government Departments via the 2015 Task Force Report. My Department does not engage with the industry to determine future requirements. The review of labour force requirements sourced from within the EEA or otherwise in any sector is under the remit of the relevant Government Department with oversight responsibility for that sector.
The Scheme commenced in February 2016 and was initially only open to Non-EEA crew members who were already working in the fishing industry in Ireland. From July of that year, all non-EEA workers intending to work in the fishing industry were required to obtain an Atypical Worker Permission (Stamp 1 conditions) from my Department and a visa clearance, if applicable, prior to entering the State.
It also provides for the annual renewal of the permission granted and permits the employee to transfer employment within the sector. However, the permission granted is not transferable to any other employment sector within the State.
The table below sets out the breakdown by nationality of permissions granted each year under the Scheme since it commenced in February 2016.
|2021 to date||167||77||34||22||16||18|
With the exception of confirming that the application is made from outside the State if it is a new permission, my Department does not collate information regarding the location of the application.
Neither does my Department collate information regarding the home port of vessels. Information regarding vessels on which permission has been granted to work is provided on a regular basis to relevant stakeholders in other Departments and Agencies with responsibility for monitoring the fishing fleet such as the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Safety Office, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.