Joint Days of Action took place on both sides of the border on Wednesday 5th October 2016 and on Friday 7th October 2016, focused on the Irish fishing industry. The primary objective of the operation was to focus on labour exploitation in the fishing industry. Emphasis was placed on any indicators of human trafficking that were apparent. Specially trained officers from the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit and the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, were on the ground for this operation at both Castletownbere and Howth. These officers focused on finding people who demonstrated any indicators of human trafficking, particularly in relation to the crews of the fishing vessels. Further objectives included:
• Identifying offences under the Atypical Work Permit Scheme; • 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. • Identify and support any suspected victims of human trafficking that may be found.
The Day of Action on Wednesday 5th October 2016 was coordinated by An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, The Workplace Relations Commission Inspectorate, The Irish Navy and The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. The Workplace Relations Commission Inspectorate led the inspections in port using powers granted to them under Section 27 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015. Members of An Garda Síochána accompanied and assisted them in these inspections as "authorised officers” as defined under this Act. The Day of Action on Friday 7th October 2016 was coordinated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and partners, and focused on the port at Kilkeel, Co. Down. A spokesperson for the Workplace Relations Commission said: "The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was happy to participate, with the other enforcement agencies, in Operation Egg Shell. Inspectors of the WRC took the lead role in inspection operations at Howth and Castletownbere. The Commission is confident that the Day of Action will make a significant contribution in terms of both its ongoing efforts to promote an awareness of, and effectively enforce, employment rights and employment permits legislation, with the overall objective of addressing labour exploitation in the fishing industry." Susan Steele, Chair, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority SFPA said "Through the course of our daily work we are aware that the vast majority of the fishing industry fully support the government’s efforts to resolve this issue.” A spokesperson for the Revenue Commissioners said: "Our participation in the Santa Marta national day of action reflects Revenue’s strong focus on tackling the shadow economy. At the sharp end of Revenue’s drive to maximise compliance we have a priority focus on sectors of the economy that are susceptible to shadow activity, working in close cooperation with other state agencies such as the WRC and An Garda Síochána. The information collected from this week’s high visibility, multi-agency operations in Howth and Castletownbere will now be analysed against the data held on Revenue systems, allowing us to quickly and effectively identify and confront non-compliance.” The Irish Navy’s the L.É. Niamh assisted in this operation off the coast of Castletownbere. It monitored the movement of a number of fishing vessels in this area and conducted a boarding of one such vessel at sea. The Irish Navy’s the L.É. Orla assisted in this operation off the coast of Howth. It monitored the movement of a number of fishing vessels in this area and conducted a boarding of two such vessels at sea. A spokesperson from the Defence Forces said: "The Naval Service, in conjunction with partner organisations, An Garda Síochána, the Workplace Relations Commission, the Revenue Investigations Unit and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority took part in a joint operation on the SW and East Coasts on 05 October in which the focus was on possible labour exploitation in the fisheries industry.” "Operation Egg Shell” was carried out under the auspices of the "North Atlantic Maritime Project”, of the Santa Marta Group. This Group, endorsed and supported by the Holy Father Pope Francis, is an alliance of international Police Chiefs and Bishops from around the world working together with Civil Society to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery. In April 2014 Police Chiefs from around the world including Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, An Garda Síochána, signed the ‘Declaration of commitment’ on combating human trafficking. A/C Byrne said: "This morning’s operation was an important multi-agency, joint task force initiative to combat and detect immigration and human trafficking offences, including labour exploitation. These are global issues and An Garda Síochána are committed to protecting victims and prosecuting offenders. It was a successful operation and pleasing to note that no cases of human trafficking were detected. 38 vessels were boarded in port and 3 at sea. Some matters will require follow up investigation by An Garda Síochána, Revenue and the WRC. The joint task force is working well with the fishing industry and this is demonstrated through the take up of the Atypical Work Permit Scheme. The Scheme was introduced by government last year to address concerns in the fishing industry. There is still some room for improvement, which will be promoted through briefing sessions with SFPA and AGS in the months ahead and by meeting industry representatives at key fishing ports throughout the State. This was phase 1 of the operation and further days of action will take place into the future.” Within the Santa Marta Group, Ireland has agreed to take part in the "North Atlantic Maritime Project” with the United Kingdom to include the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Police Scotland, Spain and Portugal. The purpose of this project is to examine human trafficking in all of its forms within the Fishing Industry, in the North Atlantic - with the objective of identifying and supporting victims of human trafficking within the industry. Following analysis of available information prior to the Day of Action, two ports in the Republic was selected for inspection – Howth Harbour, Co. Dublin and Castletownbere, Co. Cork. The PSNI identified Kilkeel Harbour, Co. Down. Importantly, no evidence of Human Trafficking, slavery or labour exploitation was found during the course of the operation. Joint Inspections were carried out on 41 fishing vessels. (22 – Castletownbere, 16 – Howth, 3- Offshore) A relatively small number of suspected breaches found included: • Offences under the Atypical Work Permit Scheme • Employment law offences • Immigration offences • Tax offences. This operation was carried out in a collaborative manner by all concerned and An Garda Síochána would like to compliment the fishing communities at Howth and Castletownbere for their cooperation that was afforded on the day. An Garda Síochána is committed to tacking Human Trafficking in all it’s forms and this operation is part of the ongoing fight against Human Trafficking in conjunction with our partners, NGO’s and external agencies.