Immigration officers make four arrests after raiding Uttlesford restaurant

UK Border Agency

UK Border Agency - Credit: Archant

IMMIGRATION officers swooped on an Indian restaurant and led a chef out in handcuffs while a stunned family-of-four looked on.

Daryl Robinson, 44, was planning to treat his wife Fiona to a special birthday meal at the Yuva in High Street, Debden, but when the couple arrived with their two daughters the restaurant was raided by officials from Home Office immigration enforcement.

Four men, all from Bangladesh, were arrested after Government intelligence suggested they did not have permission to be in the country. Three of the men, a 36-year-old waiter and two kitchen workers, aged 33 and 26, had overstayed their visas, while a chef, aged 41, was found to have entered the UK illegally.

Yuva could face a fine of up to £40,000 – £10,000 per illegal worker – unless it can demonstrate that appropriate pre-employment checks were carried out.

Acting manager Jakir Islam believes the restaurant should escape any punishment but said the incident had “opened his eyes” to the need to take more stringent employment checks.

Mr Robinson, a lawyer from Newport, told the Reporter it was “quite a surprise”, adding: “When we came in there were three guys sitting at the bar and we thought it was a bit strange because no-one came to greet us like they normally do. A couple of employees walked in looking quite flustered and said to us that the chef was being interviewed.

“They asked if we would like to sit down and have a drink. We waited there for about 15 minutes and then the chef came out wearing handcuffs – it was pretty serious stuff.

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“An immigration official walked over to us and I asked her if we could order some food, which I think she saw the funny side of, and she said ‘No and I doubt anyone will be tonight’ so we left to go elsewhere.”

The arrests took place at 6.30pm last Wednesday (April 10) and all four men were taken into immigration detention pending their removal from the UK.

Mr Islam said the men had been employed through an agency and that only initial driving licence and National Insurance Card checks had been carried out by the restaurant.

“Luckily they had only been working here for two to three weeks and because we pay staff at the end of the month none of them had received a wage. Had they been paid then we would have been in a lot of trouble but I think we’ll be OK,” he said.

“Due to high staff turnover we used to wait until agency staff had worked for a month before checking their work permit but this experience has shown us we need to take more due diligence before bringing people in.

“We have warned our other branches to be more careful and I have called restaurants in the area to make sure they don’t get caught out too. This has never happened to us before and we have been in business since 1966. I can assure our customers it will not happen again.”

Debra Johnson, from Home Office immigration enforcement, said: “We are working hard to ensure there is no hiding place for offenders and where we find people who are in the country illegally, we will seek to remove them.”

She urged anyone suspicious about illegal workers being employed by a business to call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.