A Catholic maritime charity has accused the British border authorities of treating a group of foreign fisherman “like criminals”.
Martin Foley, national director of Apostleship of the Sea, said he would be writing to the Home Office to complain about the “heavy-handed and inefficient” treatment of two Filipino and two Indonesian fishermen in Newcastle.
The four were stranded in Britain when the fishing boat they were working on was impounded due to the owner’s financial troubles.
As the crew were only contracted to work on one vessel they weren’t able to transfer to another for alternative work. 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 seaman’s books, and were frightened that they would have criminal records affecting their future employment, Apostleship of the Sea said. They were subsequently transferred to a Heathrow detention centre where some of them remain.
Since March the crew had not been paid. This meant that they were unable to send money back home to their families in Indonesia and the Philippines, with one crew member saying that his children were going hungry.
Throughout their ordeal the crew have been helped and supported by the Apostleship of the Sea’s Tyne port chaplain, Paul Atkinson.
Mr 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.”