The workers – including seven Romanian men and one Lithuanian man – were stopped at a police checkpoint in Dundalk after the Gardai said they lacked the appropriate documentation. They were driven to Dundalk Garda (police) station and held for several hours.
The men were only allowed to leave when Kilmore Farms Produce, their employer, gave a guarantee that identification could be provided.
‘Stopped and taken to the Police station’
A Kilmore Farms Produce spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Our employees were stopped [on October 3] and taken to the police station until documents could be provided. After a couple of hours, and after speaking with Paddy [owner and founder of the company], the Gardai then agreed to let them travel on to their place of work.
“We have now been told that any of our staff travelling from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland have to be able to produce identification if stopped at any of the border crossings. If they are unable to produce documents, we have been informed that they will be detained.”
The men were on their way to harvest leeks in County Louth, Republic of Ireland, on a farm owned by the Northern Ireland firm. The checkpoint was operated in conjunction with the UK Border Authority, the Garda said.
A Garda spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “This is an ongoing operation by Gardai from the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and these types of operation have been ongoing for the last number of years.
“Under the Immigration Act non-Irish nationals are required to carry documentation. This will alleviate any problems at checkpoints. We have no further information at this time.”
Meanwhile, the right of EU nationals to cross national frontiers is the subject of intense debate, as the UK government negotiates policy on Brexit. Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the Prime Minister fully intended to protect the right of non-UK EU nationals to work in this country after Brexit.
Eight leek pickers detained – at a glance
- EU nationals stopped while driving through Dundalk, Republic of Ireland, to work
- Taken to Police station after not providing ID
- Not released until employer guaranteed provision of documents