An Indian restaurant in Alnwick is facing a financial penalty of up to £80,000 after four men were arrested during a raid by immigration officers.
The men, from Bangladesh, were found at Mivesi, in Alnwick Market Place. Aged 27, 28, 32 and 34, they had all overstayed their visas and have been detained while steps are being taken to remove them from the UK.
The restaurant has been served a referral notice warning that a financial penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker found will be imposed unless the employer can demonstrate that appropriate right-to-work document checks were carried out, such as seeing a passport or Home Office document confirming permission to work. This is a potential total of up to £80,000.
Acting on intelligence, officers raided Mivesi at about 6.50pm on Friday. The visits, which were supported by Northumbria Police, were part of the ongoing Operation Kestrel which sees Immigration Enforcement working with the region’s three police forces to target foreign criminals and immigration offenders, as well as safeguarding any potential victims of trafficking or slavery.
The restaurant is owned by Amina Begum and Roy Uddin. Amina, who was not at the premises on Friday, said that she took three of the workers at ‘face value’ and felt lied to; she said that two of the workers had told her that their visa was pending and was due to be extended, while another had joined the team last week and had told her that he had the relevant paperwork and she was due to check this yesterday.
She added that she has been sponsoring the fourth worker, who has been with the team for the last five years.
She told the Gazette: “I have not done this through any greed. I took them on because I needed specialist workers. I also employ local people and I do the best that I can, and over the years we have supported a number of local charities, good causes and events.”
The Gazette was told that the business is still open an usual.
Mivesi wasn’t the only premises in Northumberland to be raided on Friday.
Officers also visited Merton Way Chinese takeaway, Merton Road, Ponteland, at about 10pm. A 31-year-old Chinese man who was found to have overstayed his visa was ordered to report regularly to Immigration Enforcement while his case is progressed.
At about 11pm, officers visited China Cook, Waterloo Road, Blyth. A man, aged 48, and a woman, aged 32, both Chinese nationals, were arrested. The woman had overstayed her visa and the man had entered the UK illegally. Both are detained pending their removal from the UK.
There was no evidence that the individuals arrested at Merton Way or China Cook were working, so neither business was issued with an illegal working financial penalty.
A further business in Berwick was visited but no arrests were made.
David Harris, Immigration Enforcement assistant director, said: “This operation is an excellent example of the work my officers do to tackle those who flout immigration laws – either by employing those with no right to work or remaining in the UK when they have no permission to do so.
“Officers across the North East are also continuing to support Operation Kestrel, through which law enforcement organisations are using the combined weight of their powers to tackle issues which cut across all areas of their work.
“Illegal working is not harmless – it cheats the taxpayer, negatively affects the wages of lawful workers and allows rogue employers to undercut legitimate businesses. All of our operations are intelligence-led and I would encourage people with detailed and specific information about illegal immigration to contact us.”
Information to help employers carry out checks to prevent illegal working can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/employers-illegal-working-penalties. This includes a new quick answer right-to-work tool to help employers check if someone has the right to work in the UK.
People with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact https://www.gov.uk/report-immigration-crime or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.