FIVE immigrants suspected of illegally working in Sunderland have been detained during raids of businesses across the city.
Officers swooped on two convenience stores and a fish and chip shop after receiving tip-offs that the men, all of Indian origin, were working illegally.
Immigration staff carried out checks at Gills Golden Fry, Ashdown Road, Farringdon, on Wednesday.
Officers claim a 26-year-old man was found to be working illegally, while a 25-year-old had overstayed his visa.
Both were arrested and are now detained pending their removal from the UK.
Mandy Gill, owner of the store, today denied any knowledge the pair were illegal workers.
She said: “As far as I knew, their papers were correct.
“One was on a student visa and due to return home in February. He had a flight booked for January 20, so, as far as I was aware, his documentation was fine.
“When the officers came it was a huge shock. We believed the men’s papers were valid and I’ve heard nothing from the police since it all happened.”
Twenty-four hours earlier, immigration officers had carried out a check at Ray’s Convenience Store at The Green, Southwick.
A 32-year-old man, who officers located in a residential area above the store, was found to be in the UK illegally, while a 23-year-old man was found to have no permission to work in the UK.
Both men were arrested, detained and are now facing removal from the UK.
The following day, officers attended Ray’s Convenience Store, this time in Villette Road, Hendon.
A 29-year-old man was arrested there for overstaying his visa. He has now been detained pending his removal from the country.
No one from the shop was available for comment.
Gills Golden Fry and both Ray’s Convenience Stores have now been served with a civil penalty notice for employing the illegal workers.
This means the employers will be fined up to £10,000 per illegal worker unless proof is provided that the correct right to work checks were carried out.
This is a total potential penalty of £20,000 for Gills Golden Fry and £10,000 for each Ray’s Convenience Store.
The 32-year-old man, arrested at Ray’s Convenience Store at The Green, was not caught working and was not included in the civil penalty to the employer.
Phillippa Russell, from the North East and Cumbria Home Office Immigration Enforcement team, said: “We are determined to tackle illegal working in Sunderland, and our teams carry out intelligence-led operations like this all year round.
“Illegal working is not a victimless crime – it defrauds the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and cheats legitimate job seekers out of employment opportunities.
“Employers have a legal duty to ensure their employees have permission to work in the UK. If they do not take their responsibilities seriously they can expect immigration enforcement visits, arrests and a heavy financial penalty.
“I would urge anyone with detailed and specific information about suspected illegal working to get in touch.”
Anyone who suspects that illegal workers are being employed at a business or someone is living in the UK illegally can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.