Illegal immigrant arrested at Mansfield firm

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Thirty immigrants who have been living and working in the UK illegally have been arrested following a Home Office raid on a Mansfield factory.

Immigration Enforcement officers visited Savanna Rags International Ltd, on Forest Road, at about 10am yesterday (19th March), after acting on intelligence.

Staff were questioned to check whether they had the right to work in the UK and officers then arrested 27 men and three women, aged between 23 and 54, who were found to be in the UK illegally.

The majority - 21 - were from Ghana, while six were Indian, two Nigerian and one person from Niger.

Of those arrested, 26 had overstayed their visa, three had entered the UK illegally, and one had obtained leave to remain by deception.

Five of those arrested were detained pending removal from the UK. The remaining 25 were placed on immigration bail while action is taken to remove them from the country.

The business will be served a notice warning that a civil penalty of up to £10,000 per illegal worker arrested will be imposed unless proof is provided that the correct right-to-work checks were carried out. This is a potential total of up to £300,000.

Alison Spowage, assistant director for Immigration Enforcement in the East Midlands, said: “This was a large scale operation targeting suspected illegal working in Nottinghamshire.

“We have dedicated and well resourced teams, and the message to employers who chose to flout the law is clear. We will catch you and you will pay a heavy penalty.

“Illegal working exploits some of society’s most vulnerable people.

“It also undercuts honest employers, cheats the treasury and takes jobs away from those with a legal right to work.

“I would urge members of the public with specific and detailed information about suspected immigration abuse to get in touch.”

The HMRC officers involved in the operation were part of a dedicated taskforce to uncover and tackle those employers who are not paying what they should, either in tax to HMRC or the National Minimum Wage to their employees.

Jonathan Warburton, HMRC Taskforce Leader, said: “Our taskforce is identifying those employers who operate ‘outside the system’ to avoid paying VAT, PAYE and the National Minimum Wage, which is stealing millions of pounds from local people and the UK economy.

“Paying the National Minimum Wage isn’t optional, it is a worker’s legal right. We will help employers to understand their responsibilities, but will also relentlessly pursue those who deliberately break the law.”

A spokesman for Savanna rags said: "Savanna Rags International Ltd fully cooperated with the officers from both HMRC & Immigration services.

We provided them with the information that we had on file for of our employees including all copies of documents supplied to us by the staff.

What we have learnt is that unfortunately the checks we carried out were not rigorous enough.

Since the visit we have implemented everything that was recommended and we now have a dedicated HR administrator on site.

Furthermore we now only recruit using an external agency who carry out all due diligence, including visas and right to work in the UK.

This was a very hard lesson to learn especially when you take in to consideration the facts that we were making PAYE and NI contributions having been supplied these details by the employees.

What we would say to other businesses who employ foreign workers is to be more vigilant and make sure that you check the credentials of every employee thoroughly so you don’t fall victim to a sophisticated scam the way we did and if in doubt contact the relevant government body for advice."