Rogue recruitment agencies in Ghana could be putting boat owners in conflict with UK law
A recruitment agent in Ghana has spoken out against rogue recruitment agencies that are using the business in order to traffick people into the United Kingdom.
Frederick O’Neal, Managing Director of iEnergy Marine Services Ltd (iEMAS) claims that these traffickers are causing untold damage to legitimate recruitment agencies in Ghana.
At the start of June this year, Ghanaian Immigration Taskforce in cooperation with immigration officials in the UK brought down a syndicate of human traffickers in the city of Apam.
The syndicate was busted for recruiting unsuspecting Ghanaians to work as seafarers in the UK, but Frederick O’Neal believes that the problem goes deeper and that many Ghanaians themselves are using rogue recruitment agencies in order to gain entry into the UK as seafarers only to abscond.
Speaking to The Fishing Daily he told of one skipper based in the UK who had hired a crew from a Ghanaian recruitment agency.
He said, “He employed some guys. The first week they were there the boat was in harbour getting some repairs. When they did go fishing, they had been out no more than two days when they started to complain.
“And you should know, it is very difficult for the skipper. It is always their words against the skipper. They know if they lodge a complaint against an owner or the skipper they will be protected.”
He claims that in this way they abandon their jobs and begin to seek asylum. He said, “When you go to the UK Home Office and look at the list of asylum seekers, you will find out that the majority come from Ghana.
Mr O’Neal also claims that several other boat owners have been caught out by bogus workers and have fallen foul of the law.
Frederick blames the current system in Ghana that allows wannabe seafarers/bogus workers to get their hands on qualifications.
“It’s too easy just to get the papers, but it’s then it’s difficult then to actually prove that these men are qualified fishermen and that and that they’re willing to just stay on the boat and work and not have any other alternative ideas.
“So, everybody can wake up and then think I want to go to the Maritime University in Ghana to get myself to get the basic mandatory certificate right, and then probably get a get the discharge book. And get a traveling passport and then say, “Oh I’m a crewman or I’m a fisherman whereby the person doesn’t have any knowledge about working on a fishing boat?
“They are seafarers, but they are not, they just want to enter UK for their own personal gains.”
Another area he claims these rogue recruiters operate is defrauding Ghanaian seafarers.
Mr O’Neal said, “There are a few of these companies that are promising these guys that they are coming to the UK to work, and they are ripping these guys off by taking their money. They promise them that they are going to be put on a fishing vessel in the UK and once one of these guys are able to make payment, ripping these guys off by taking their money.”
O’Neal calls for the system to be tightened up. He says that the UK is an important work hub for honest migrant fishermen and their families. The money they earn from fishing or other seafaring activities provide a future for their families back at home in places like Ghana. On a personal level, Frederick says that his father worked on fishing vessels in the UK and the trust between boat owners and recruitment agencies must remain undamaged so this relationship can continue.