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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Carlisle restaurant boss hits out over immigration raids

A restaurant boss has hit out at UK Border Agency officers who insisted on checking his staff’s credentials as customers waited for food.

Sukar Ali photo
Sukar Ali

The Viceroy restaurant in Shaddongate, Carlisle was one of three Cumbrian establishments visited by immigration officials on Monday evening.

All staff working at the Viceroy were found to be working their legally.

Two illegal workers were caught in the raids on the Shaha Tandoori in Botchergate, Carlisle and Fisa Spice in South Street, Cockermouth.

Sukar Ali, whose Viceroy restaurant in Carlisle’s Rigg Street recently won a national award, said it was the third or fourth time his business has been targeted by officials.

The several UKBA officials who turned up refused to wait to make their checks until the business was not busy, said Mr Ali.

“There were quite a lot of them, and they turned up at about 8pm,” he said.

“At the time, my chef was in the middle of preparing a meal for customers.

“I told them that they were welcome to wait at the front and back doors until my staff had finished preparing the meal that a customer was waiting for but they refused.”

A British citizen, Mr Ali has been working in the restaurant business for more than 40 years and says he always checks the credentials of staff to ensure they are entitled to work in the UK. He said he accepted fully that UKBA had a duty to check the credentials of foreign nationals, but was “disgusted” that they were not prepared to wait.

“He asked one of them why they had come to my restaurant again and he said that they had taken calls from somebody saying they should visit this place. Perhaps somebody doesn’t like me. I accept that they have to do their job but they should have waited until we had served the food to our customers,” he added.

A spokesman for Home Office Immigration Enforcement said officers acting on intelligence visited all three restaurants where they carried out checks on the immigration status of staff members.

He said a 33-year-old man from Bangladesh was found to have overstayed his visa at the Shaha. He is now detained pending his removal from the UK. Shaha Tandoori was not served with a civil penalty notice after the employer provided evidence that the correct pre-employment checks were carried out on the worker.

At Fisa Spice officers found a 29-year-old man, again from Bangladesh, also found working illegally. The man has an outstanding application to the Home Office under consideration and he was not arrested.

The spokesman said that if his application is turned down, he will also face removal from the country. Fisa Spice has been served with a civil penalty notice for employing the illegal worker which means it will be fined up to £10,000 unless proof is provided that the correct pre-employment checks were carried out.

He said officers also visited the Viceroy. Following checks all staff at the restaurant were found to have the right to work in the UK.

Assistant director Phillippa Russell, from the North East & Cumbria Home Office Immigration Enforcement team, said: “We are determined to tackle illegal working in Cumbria and our teams carry out frequent intelligence-led visits to businesses there.”

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