The UK Border Agency enforcement teams could be turning their attention to the care industry which employs thousands of migrant workers and offers rich pickings for collecting fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.
With hardly any care home not employing an overseas worker, the UKBA appears to be casting its eye on the sector following carefully planned operations to swoop on illegal care workers in Swindon this week.
In a report by This is Wiltshire, three overseas care workers who had overstayed their visas have been removed from the UK for immigration offences following a series of care industry raids in Swindon by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
The foreign nationals were arrested at a care training event for migrant workers and at residential addresses.
UKBA officers, along with the Wiltshire Police, went to a training event held at the Shaftesbury Centre, in Percy Street.
Six people were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences after checks were carried out during the operation on February 29. A woman from Sudan and a man from Burundi were later released, but four people were confirmed as immigration offenders.
A 56-year-old woman from Kenya, who was in the country illegally after her asylum claim was rejected, was removed from the UK in June. Work is continuing on the cases of a 39-year-old Tanzanian man, a 45-year-old Kenyan woman and a 47-year-old Kenyan man.
Border officers raided a residential address in Shenton Close on the same date where a 40-year-old Kenyan woman was arrested for immigration offences.
The woman, a failed asylum seeker, was removed from the UK in July.
Two further arrests were made by officers at residential addresses in Swindon on March 7. A Kenyan woman was arrested in Edinburgh Street, while a woman from Swaziland was detained in Cricklade Road. The 32-year-old woman from Swaziland was found to have over-stayed her visa and was removed to her home country in March.
The investigation continues on the case of the Kenyan woman, who is a 44-year-old failed asylum seeker.
Matthew Gregory, of the UKBA, said: “We carry out frequent operations in Swindon and Wiltshire and immigration offenders should know that they have nowhere to hide.
“Our message to people who are in the UK illegally is that they must leave. Where we find people who are in the UK illegally, we will seek to remove them.
“We are determined to crack down on offenders and are sending a simple, clear message to people who are here illegally — more raids are planned and you will be caught.”
Until now immigration raids tended to be carried out on restaurants and takeaways, but the UKBA’s attention could be turning on the care industry which heavily depends on migrant workers.
A spokeswoman for the Care Quality Commission said: “In general terms, CQC takes information of concern raised about the services it regulates very seriously. Where information suggests that people may be at risk of poor care, CQC works with local authorities and other local stakeholders to make sure that people’s welfare is protected.
“CQC follows up information it receives in a number of ways, which can include unannounced inspections.”
Cynthia Barker of Immigration Advisers Bison UK warns that care homes are an obvious target for UKBA raids, which employ thousands of care workers on work permits, student visas and as dependants of students.
“Care home owners report that the files of any foreign looking workers are usually checked for the right to work in the UK during care inspections, even though CQC staff are not trained for immigration work.”
Cynthia has carried out a number of immigration file checks on behalf of care home operators and in every case uncovers illegal workers. Finding out that you are employing an overseas worker or student illegally before a UKBA raid can help an employer avoid a fine of up to £10,000. She added:
“Many employers have become armchair immigration lawyers and think they can avoid a £10,000 fine just by reading the rules on the UKBA website or calling advisers to pick their brains for some free advice, but it’s not that simple.
“It’s no longer sufficient to have a copy of a passport and visa on a file or assume that someone on a student or dependant visa is still allowed to work. Romanians and Bulgarians also create confusion because although they are EU members they still need permission to work in the UK.
“All employee files need to be compliant and must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure not only that the worker still has the right to work, but also that you can demonstrate to the UKBA that you have made every effort to ensure you have carried out those checks.”
Last week the government awarded a contract to track down more than 150,000 migrants who have overstayed their visas to a private services company, Capita.
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