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04th July 2013
AoS is appalled at treatment of foreign fishermen by UK government agency. We have criticised the way seafarers and fishermen are treated when they run into problems with their UK visas.
The recent case of four foreign fishermen in Newcastle illustrates what we claim is a heavy-handed and inefficient process.
Two Filipino and two Indonesian fishermen were recently stranded in the UK when the fishing boat they were working on hit financial difficulties. Working on a fishing vessel in the North Sea is a hazardous career, with dangerous seas and unforgiving weather conditions. However, their treatment deteriorated once the ‘Starward’ was impounded due to the owner's financial troubles.
Since March the crew had not been paid. This meant that they were not able to send money back home to their families in Indonesia and the Philippines, with one crew member relating how his children were going hungry.
As the crew were only contracted to work on this particular vessel they weren’t able to transfer to another for alternative work. Also, as they were working on transit visas the UK Border Agency had them arrested in mid-June and taken to a detention centre. The men were separated from their luggage which contained their Seamen’s’ books and were frightened that they would have criminal records affecting their future employment. They were subsequently transferred to a Heathrow detention centre where some of them remain.
Throughout this ordeal the crew have been helped and supported by the Apostleship of the Sea’s Tyne port chaplain, Paul Atkinson (pictured below). Paul has provided practical and emotional support, working with the AoS national office to try to alleviate the men's stress and ensure they are fairly treated.
Apostleship of the Sea National Director Martin Foley said, ‘The application of immigration rules to these men has taken no consideration of their circumstances. It is appalling that overseas fishing crews who are stranded in the UK through no fault of their own are treated like criminals and subjected to treatment that has demeaned and humiliated them. I intend to raise this matter with the Home Office and the local MP.'
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