Businesses named and shamed over illegal worker fines

First published in Bradford Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Aire Valley Chief Reporter

Immigration officials have named and shamed businesses in Bradford district caught employing illegal workers in a bid to claw back fines totalling tens of thousands of pounds.

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has warned bosses employing foreigners who have no right to work in the country they will be caught and hit with heavy fines of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker found.

For the first time, the agency has published the details of those businesses in the district it is chasing for fines of between £2,500 and £10,000.

They are Beech Stores in Beech Grove, Bradford Moor; Omar’s Balti House in Great Horton Road; UK Fried Chicken in Morley Street and Palok Restaurant and Take Away in Main Street, Burley-in-Wharfedale.

In total the businesses owe £22,500.

Another business, Bradford Grinders (UK) Ltd, based in Bowling, Bradford, was also hit with a civil penalty of £5,000, although bosses strongly denied they had employed an illegal worker and have challenged the decision.

Palok Restaurant and Takeaway in Burley-in-Wharfedale was sold last year and reopened under new ownership as Red Chilli in September.

Supervisor Abdul Shahid said the business had received letters from UKBA about the fine, which had been sent to former owner Arob Ali.

Mr Shahid said: “We are a new business and we have our own affairs to deal with. We are very aware of not employing people that are illegal and are careful when employing staff.”

Meanwhile, spokesman Masood Janjua, an immigration service advisor to Omar’s Balti, said the restaurant’s boss Mohammed Sadiq “seriously regretted” employing an illegal worker.

Mr Sadiq did not realise the chef had no right to work in the UK but admitted that he had not checked he had the correct documents and had not been able to contact the Home Office for advice.

Mr Janjua said: “In addition to that, there is a shortage of skilled workers since the border agency has stopped issuing work permits. There is a difficulty finding people to work in Indian and Asian food establishments.”

Steve Lamb, the UK Border Agency regional director for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, warned: “Those who choose to break the law should know that we are looking for them and they will face heavy fines.

“Employers are responsible for carrying out document checks and we work with businesses to let them know what they need to do.”

A spokesman for the UKBA said it had taken the decision to name and shame because it is in the “public interest” to deter illegal working, which undermines British workers and exploits migrants.

A total of 25 businesses in Yorkshire, owing £150,000, appear on the list.

They have all either failed to pay their fines or been issued with a new fine after losing an appeal.

Each of the businesses included has failed to prove that correct right-to-work checks were carried out on workers caught during the original visit.

Other businesses caught using illegal workers but who have paid the financial penalty are not listed.

Every year, UKBA fines hundreds of companies which fail to carry out checks that their staff have the right to work in the UK.

In 2011 the agency served more than 1,100 penalty notices on employers, collecting nearly £7 million in fines – up £600,000 on the previous year.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Illegal working has damaging social and economic consequences for the UK. It undercuts businesses that operate within the law, undermines British workers and exploits migrant workers.

“The message is clear for employers — we will not tolerate illegal working and we will take firm action against those who ignore the rules.”

Richard Chera, a director of Bradford Grinders insisted that officials had made a “mistake” when they visited the business.

He said the officials had mistaken for an illegal worker a customer who was waiting for an hour and a half to collect parts.

Fairfax Solicitors, representing the UKBA said the fine payable by Bradford Grinders had been put on hold while the dispute was resolved.

Mr Chera said: “We have given the UKBA all the proof that they need (to show the business has not been employing illegal workers).”

Nobody from Beech Stores or UK Fried Chicken was available for comment.

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