SDLP MLA for South Down Colin McGrath has said if the UK Immigration Service implements its proposed changes to immigration policy the Fishing Industry here could face an ‘existential crisis’ in weeks.
Commenting the SDLP MLA said:
“This is a very worrying situation which could have a massive impact upon fishing businesses in South Down. We have two of the three fishing ports in this constituency and rely heavily upon the input and expertise of those foreign workers.
"It would appear that some minor visa administrative issues have been now highlighted and the method being utilised by policy makers in London and by the Border Force is to ask foreign workers based in Ardglass and Kilkeel, and other parts of the UK, who make up up to one third of the workforce, to go home to their respective countries and reapply to get back into the UK which could take weeks at best and in reality, more like months.
"This matter has been ongoing for over ten years now and if the authorities have been overlooking administrative issues for that length of time then they are culpable in the resulting situation that now prevails, and this should be approached with a problem solving rather than problem causing approach.
"I have written to the relevant Ministers including our own DAERA Minister to ensure this matter is being taken seriously and a solution is being sought.
"I want to see the current staffing compliment given a special circumstance to remain in the UK until their visas are regularised and then the new system can be applied to new staff entering the UK. This would enable staff to be able to work and businesses to survive.
"With the cost of living crisis and the impact it is having upon businesses too this type of ‘administrative intervention’ by the Immigration Service is unhelpful and could have a destructive impact upon our rural fishing community.”