The UK Border Agency is targeting employers in a bid to stamp out illegal working.
This week, the Cynon Valley Leader reports that a shop owner was fined £2,750 after becoming the first employer in South Wales to be convicted of employing illegal workers.
Satwant Singh Tatlah, who owns the Spar Store in Trecynon, Soth Wales, pleaded guilty to three separate charges at Aberdare Magistrates Court and was fined £2000 for two workers and £750 for the third by District Judge John Charles.
The story illustrates a growing pattern of similar immigration raids all over the UK in the last six months.
The court heard that immigration officers visited the shop on October 17 last year, and found three employees who were not legally entitled to work in the country.
The employees were Abinav Chopra, a student whose Student Visa had expired in September 2006, and two others, Singh Hussan and Rajiv Kumar (who also gave the name Ratti Gagan Kumar) who had not been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK.
The immigration officers had given Mr Tatlah seven days in which to produce the relevant documents for each employee, but he failed to do so.
Jeremy Bird, defending, said 46-year-old Tatlah “is very much a family man,” who had bought the shop in 2004 with the intention of running it with the help of his children and parents, who had moved to the premises with him.
“However, two of his children are now in full-time higher education, and his father is in very ill health, having just suffered his third stroke,” said Mr Bird.
“Having told you that it is a family-run enterprise, once his parents became ill and his children went away to study, Mr Tatlah needed to employ workers from outside the family unit.”
When questioned by the immigration officers at the store, Tatlah told them he had obtained some documentation relating to Chopra, but none relating to Hussan and Kumar.
He told them Hussan was also known to him as he had previously been working in a shop in Merthyr Tydfil, and that Kumar had moved to Wales having finished work at the Wembley construction site.
Tatlah also claimed Kumar was two weeks into a four-week trial when immigration officers swooped on the store, and that his working documents were being sent to him form London.
Mr Bird added that Tatlah accepted he had “fallen foul of the law” and that he now understood that he had “an absolute obligation” to obtain all the relevant documentation for his employees.
All three Indian nationals have since been deported, as Chopra was found to have over-stayed his Visa and the others were illegal immigrants.
Under new rules introduced this year anyone deported (or removed) from the UK can be banned from returning for up 10 years.
Following the hearing, immigration officers for the UK Border Agency said they were pleased with the outcome.
Steve Whitmarsh-Knight, who was present when officers targeted the shop last year, said: “This is the first case of its kind in South Wales and possibly the whole of Wales.
“Illegal employment is at the heart of our illegal entry problems and its nice to see that the courts are recognising that and taking appropriate action.
“We sincerely hope this will act as a deterrent to others.”
Immigration Matters Comment
There has been a spate of reports of immigration raids on shops and restaurants in the past few weeks, as the UK Border Agency steps up its campaign to crack down on illegal working.
The UK Government is targeting employers, which it sees as encouraging illegal immigration by providing employment.
In the past, employees would have been removed from the UK, whilst the employer received a warning or slap on the wrist.
But new civil penalties (where the burden of proof is much lower than for a criminal offence) are now being imposed on companies, even in cases where the employer has pleaded ignorance or has omitted to make the necessary checks.
Last week Immigration Matters reported that UK companies had been hit with fines of more than over £500,000 this year.
Cynthia, who carries out regular file audits for employers, said:
“Many honest and law abiding employers are totally confused by the rules and extremely worried about the potential £10,000 civil penalties.
“Common queries include questions on student visas, dependents, work permits and people with passports at the Home Office.
“Employers are now responsible to ensure that their employees have the right to work in the UK, and documents such as a National Insurance number are no longer a ‘statutory defence’ against prosecution.”
The message is clear.
Employers: – make sure your workers have the right to work in the UK or face a fine of up to £10000.
Migrant Workers: – ensure you have the necessary paperwork, Work Permit, visa or Leave to Remain to enable you to work in the UK legally or face removal and a possible 10 year ban from the UK. Employers are not always aware of the rules, but you should know whether or not you are allowed to work.