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Immigration raids across Reading find firms exploiting illegal workers

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Immigration raids across Reading find firms exploiting illegal workers 2nd November 2017

Illegal workers have been apprehended at 16 Reading businesses in the last six months.
Licensing officers in conjunction with Immigration enforcement officers have carried out inspections at 32 licensed premises over the last six months and found 22 illegal workers, working in 16 different establishments.


During inspections they found illegal workers who were living in poor conditions and being paid far below the minimum wage. While the employers were failing to carry out right to work checks and making cash in hand payments.


They also found a host of licensing and food safety breaches which severely undermined the licensing objectives.


The council is looking to review the licences of Bestfood Supermarket, in Oxford Road, Premier Store, in Whitley Street, and Supersave, in Northumberland Avenue, Whitley, which were caught employing illegal workers.


Himalaya Momo House, in Farnham Drive, Caversham lost its licence this week and received a £20,000 fine after it was caught employing two illegal workers.


The men, who are from Nepal and Bhutan, were working long shifts, six days a week, for around £200 a week.


While China Palace, in Oxford Road, was also caught employing four illegal workers, who were all being paid less than the minimum wage, during a raid in July 2017.


The popular restaurant was fined £28,000 and it could lose its licence in the coming weeks as a new date to hear the review application has been set for 14th November.


Council licensing officer Richard French revealed the figures at a meeting of Reading Borough Council's licensing sub committee on Tuesday, October 24.


He criticised the employment of illegal workers and claimed they are often treated poorly, overworked, under paid and denied basic rights.
He told the committee: "People who are treated like this by licence holders are being exploited. Some might say as slaves, others might say exploited.”


Councillor Sarah Hacker, lead member with responsibility for licensing, is calling on all Reading businesses to carry out thorough right to work checks.


She said: “These are serious criminal offences being committed by the licence holders, not least because as they are exploiting vulnerable people who are often paid far below the minimum wage.


“The council urges all licence holders in Reading to review the right to work documents of all of their staff to ensure that they are entitled to work.


"The licensing authority takes the matter extremely seriously and will not hesitate to take action against licence holders who employ and exploit illegal workers, breach licensing and food safety legislation and continue to put members of the public at risk.


“Action has already been initiated in respect of five premises, and there is likely to be further action taken against others in the coming weeks and months.”

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