SCOTLAND Questions Fishermen
Jun 11, 2009 1:54:53 PM
By Scott Macnab, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland
The Scottish Government has raised "serious concerns" with UK Borders chiefs over plans to deport Filipino fishermen, First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed today.
Hundreds of crew members are working on Scottish boats and the industry would face "serious consequences" if they are lost, one local MSP told Parliament during First Minister's Questions.
The UK Border Agency say that many "vulnerable" fishermen are being "exploited" and will be sent home if they are in the UK illegally.
Mr Salmond told MSPs that Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has written to Phil Woolas, the UK Minister of State for Borders and Immigration "expressing serious concerns" and calling for an "urgent meeting" on the issue.
"We will press for a sensible period of adjustment so that any changes to the enforcement of the existing immigration laws are managed in a way that doesn't jeopardise the operation of the fishing fleet," the First Minister said.
The issue was raised by SNP backbencher Rob Gibson.
"There are several hundred crew members of Philippine nationality who are working in boats fishing off the west coast of Scotland," he said.
He said the proposed action could "pose serious consequences for our fishing fleets in Scottish waters."
Mr Salmond also said that a joint industry-Government new entrants working group met for the first time earlier this week.
"It will propose ways of better promoting the attractiveness of the industry and more effectively communicating how to access the opportunities across the catching sectors so that our fleet can become less reliant on Filipino crewmen as well as taking forward concerns about working conditions across the fleet," he added.