African and Asian migrant workers are being routinely but illegally used as cheap labour on Irish fishing trawlers working out of some of the country’s most popular tourist ports, the Guardian can reveal.

A year-long investigation into the Irish prawn and whitefish sector has uncovered undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian and Indian fishermen manning boats in ports from Cork to Galway. They have described a catalogue of abuses, including being confined to vessels unless given permission by their skippers to go on land, and being paid less than half the Irish minimum wage that would apply if they were legally employed. They have also spoken of extreme sleep deprivation, having to work for days or nights on end with only a few hours’ sleep, and with no proper rest days.

Some migrant workers claim to have been deceived and appear to have been trafficked on to trawlers for labour exploitation, an abuse that would be a form of modern slavery.

Our evidence suggests that some boat owners and crewing agencies are smuggling African and Filipino workers in to Ireland through entry points at London Heathrow and Belfast airports, and then arranging for them to cross from Northern Ireland in to the Republic by road, bypassing Irish immigration controls.

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