ELEVEN alleged immigration offenders were arrested by a Home Office enforcement team from restaurants and takeaways in Lerwick, Brae and Scalloway in an eight-hour period on Thursday.
The Home Office confirmed to Shetland News on Monday that, acting on intelligence, immigration enforcement action was taken at four different eateries in the islands.
Attempts will now be made to remove all 11 individuals from the country – while threatened financial penalties could have ruinous consequences for some of the small businesses involved.
Officers visited the Raba Indian Restaurant and Mr T’s, both on Lerwick’s Commercial Road, simultaneously at 1pm on Thursday (7 July). Action was also taken at the Taj Tandoori in Brae at 5.30pm, followed by Hai Yang on Scalloway’s New Street at around 9.15pm.
Management at the Raba said they did not want to make any comment, and that “time will tell” whether the business will be able to survive. A sign outside Hai Yang said the shop was currently closed and may reopen in two weeks’ time, apologising to customers for any inconvenience.
Staff at each location were questioned to check whether they had the right to live and work in the UK.
As a result, two men were arrested at the Raba. The Home Office said a 23-year-old Bangladeshi man was found to have overstayed his student visa, while the older man – a 31 year old Nepalese national – was found to be an immigration offender.
Three men were arrested at Mr T’s – two Nepalese nationals, aged 26 and 37, and a 37-year-old Pakistani man. The Home Office said the younger Nepalese man was found to be an immigration offender, while the older one was found to have entered the country illegally, as had the Pakistani man.
Immigration enforcement officials said a 32-year-old Bangladeshi man found at the Taj Tandoori had overstayed a visit visa.
Five Chinese nationals were arrested at Scalloway’s Hai Yang, all of whom the Home Office said were found to have entered the country illegally. They included four men, aged between 37 and 47, and a 42-year-old woman.
All of those arrested at the Raba and Mr T’s have been detained pending removal from the UK. The individuals found at Taj Tandoori and Hai Yang have been ordered to report to police regularly while steps are taken to remove them.
The immigration enforcement team explained each had been served notices warning that financial penalties of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker who was discovered will be imposed unless they 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.
If proof is not provided, the officials warn, that could mean fines of up to £40,000 for the Raba, £60,000 for Mr T’s, £20,000 for Taj Tandoori and £100,000 for Hai Yang.
Similar Home Office raids have been commonplace on the Scottish mainland in recent years.
Last week seven takeaway workers were arrested in Perthshire, while last month four workers from two takeaways in Wishaw were arrested and detained.
Stephen Roarty of the Home Office’s immigration enforcement team – which carried out the Shetland operation in partnership with Police Scotland – said in a statement issued on Monday that it was a “clear warning to those in Scotland abusing our immigration laws that, wherever you are in the country, our dedicated and well-resourced teams will find you”.
“The use of illegal labour is not victimless,” he said. “It defrauds the taxpayer, undercuts genuine employers and denies legitimate job hunters work.
“We are happy to work with employers who want to play by the rules but those who flout them will face heavy financial penalties.”
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael responded: “Obviously it is important that anyone living or working in the UK should do so lawfully.
“Too often those who do not have the proper authorisation are themselves the victims of exploitation. That is why we now have laws requiring employers to obtain evidence of immigration status before taking on staff.
“Unfortunately the system itself is not always efficient when it comes to identifying who is here lawfully and who is not. I can really only intervene if asked to do so and if that happens I shall pursue any case where I am asked to help.”
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