The owner of three Indian restaurants in Cumbria, in the North of England, has been jailed for two years for employing illegal immigrants, the News and Star reports.
A judge at Carlisle Crown Court told Mohammed Hifzuil Rahman, 46, he had “exploited” vulnerable people in pursuit of money.
“I find it very difficult to accept that this was done for humanitarian reasons,” Judge Peter Hughes QC said. “I don’t accept that you were motivated simply by altruism or compassion.”
Rahman was charged in March 2010 after police and UK Border Agency officers found a total of seven illegal immigrants living and working at two of his restaurants – the Red Fort in St John’s Street, Keswick, and the Taj Mahal in Main Street, Sedbergh.
By that time, prosecuting counsel Tim Evans said, he had already been given three formal warnings about his conduct and issued with civil penalties totalling £55,000 after illegal immigrants were found in his restaurants on previous occasions.
Mr Evans said the men were failed asylum seekers, whom to Rahman gave food and accommodation in “basic and cramped conditions” in return for work.
Rahman, who also owns the Spice Merchant in Main Street, Grange, pleaded guilty to seven charges of “assisting unlawful immigration by providing living accommodation and employment which facilitated a breach of the immigration laws”.
In mitigation, defence counsel Andrew Ford said that though Rahman had been responsible for the men working in his restaurants, they had been overseen by managers, not by him. He said Rahman had warned his managers about illegally employing asylum seekers, and their continuing to do so was due to their “incompetence”.
He admitted Rahman had not been sufficiently “rigorous”, but suggested it was better for the men to be given work rather than be allowed to “disappear”.
“Giving them succour is better than the gutter,” he said.
Judge Hughes said the case was aggravated by way Rahman had gone on employing the immigrants “in defiance” of the three warnings he had been given. He rejected Rahman’s claim that, as a devout Muslim, he was bound to provide shelter for other Muslims.
“We are all subject, in equal measure, to the laws of the land, whatever our faith and whatever our cultural background,” he said.
He said he realised Rahman’s wife and six children, who live in Rochdale, would suffer from his being sent to prison. And he said he knew that, with Rahman already £100,000 in debt, the sentence could affect “the ability of the restaurant business to continue”.
But he said illegal immigration into this country was such a serious problem that those assisting it had to be dealt with severely.
Source: News and Star www.newsandstar.co.uk
This story will send shivers through the spines of those who knowingly illegally employ migrant workers, as well as some who are worried that they might be employing a worker without the correct paperwork.
Employers normally risk a £10,000 civil penalty for employing an illegal immigrant, but the threat of a term in prison and criminal action is a whole new ball game.
Despite the threat of £10,000 fines and a widely publicised information campaign, many employers are slipping up because there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the whole area of employing foreign nationals and even EU workers.
For instance a common assumption is that all members of the European Union have the same rights. Wrong. Not all EU members have the right to freely work in the UK.
As members of the European Union, Bulgarians have visa-free access to the UK, however, like Romanians, they do not enjoy the same treaty rights to work as the earlier A8 Eastern European EU accession countries such as Poland and Latvia.
Employers cannot employ a Romanian or Bulgarian worker in the same way they can a Polish or other A8 accession country citizen.
Many Romanians and Bulgarians register as self employed and start businesses, which is allowed, or work and study on a Yellow Card Visa. Romanian and Bulgarian Students taking vocational or sandwich courses, such as NVQ in Health and Social Care, are allowed to work full time, as stated on their Yellow Cards.
Other issues which cause confusion are overseas workers on student visas and dependants of Tier 4 students and Tier 2 working visa holders.
Immigration Adviser Evelie Padadac said:
‘My employer clients are so confused by the rules surrounding Tier 2 and Tier 4 Student Visas, and in particular Romanian and Bulgarian workers who despite being EU members do not have the automatic right to work here, that they are risking huge fines.’
This week the Home Office has unveiled details of a proposed major overhaul to the Tier 2 working visa route scrapping many of the procedures brought in by the previous Government.
Employers are advised to carry out an annual ‘health check’ or employee file audit to ensure that work permit holders and workers on student visas are still legal and avoid fines of up to £10,000 or even prison.
Evelie Padadac is an OISC registered immigration adviser with Bison Management UK specializing in work and study related visas as well as a file checking audit service for employers. For a free consultation call her on 0208 905 1822.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: