Immigration ministers have caved to demands to include deckhands on the UK’s skilled worker list, representing “a victory for fishermen”.
The move means skippers will continue to be able to recruit staff internationally, as they had done prior to Brexit.
Home Secretary Priti Patel initially rejected recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee to add deckhands, along with a series of other occupations, to the UK’s shortage occupation list (SOL), which helps migrants get work visas to fill jobs where there are not enough native applications.
Explaining the decision, Ms Patel said the UK Government needed to “pause and assess” how the jobs market responds to the pandemic and the introduction of a new points-based immigration system following Brexit.
But the decision was quietly reversed in a written parliamentary statement slipped out during the Budget debate last week.
‘Let down by Home Office rules for too long’
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, who previously branded the rule “ridiculous”, welcomed the decision.
He said: “This change of course is a victory for fishermen who have been let down by Home Office rules for too long.
If we want the industry to expand further in the coming years then demand for further worker support will not be going away.”
“The change should have been made months ago but I am glad that we have finally made the government see sense.
“In future ministers need to listen to skippers first rather than dictating to the industry on their own priorities.
“While we should encourage local uptake in deckhand jobs as much as possible, non-EEA deckhands have been a vital part of the industry for years and appreciated in our communities.
“If we want the industry to expand further in the coming years then demand for further worker support will not be going away.”