Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has called on the British government to urgently engage with fishing representatives as the catastrophic impact of Tory immigration policy threatens the future sustainability of the local fishing industry.
The South Down MP has written to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman in an effort to highlight how changes to the visa system will have a devastating impact in Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie.
Chris Hazzard said:
“For many years now our local fishing fleet has relied on workers from Asia and Africa; with workers accessing ‘transit’ visas that give them the opportunity to secure employment with vessels in Co Down.
“However, following the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Act, the Tories are closing down this pragmatic approach to workers – a decision that will have catastrophic consequences for our local fishing industry.
“Despite previous assurances from the British Home Office that a light touch approach to enforcement would allow time for the industry to transition safely and sustainably to the ‘skilled’ visa system; the local fleet have now been informed by Border Force officials that a robust approach to enforcing these changes will begin within weeks.
“There is no doubt that the majority of our local fleet will be forced to tie-up their vessels as they understandably cannot afford the punitive penalties that would be applied if they were found to be in breach of the new draconian regime.
“This would be catastrophic for our local industry – with severe human, and financial consequences for workers, families and the wider economy.
“A cliff-edge approach to re-staffing vessels would be dangerous, and massively expensive for an industry that is already struggling to recover from Brexit, Covid-19 and increasing operation costs.
“The British government must urgently engage with fishing representatives to find an agreeable, safe and sustainable way forward that protects workers and future-proofs our local fishing industry.”