IMMIGRATION officers made five arrests during a series of raids on shops employing illegal workers.
The Home Office’s South Central Immigration Enforcement team swooped on stores across the area.
The operation, which was led by two teams with seven officers in each, was carried out following tip-offs from the public.
It began with simultaneous raids on Hartley’s Stores, in Bedhampton Road, Havant, and Chidham Stores, in Chidham Drive, Havant.
A 23-year-old Indian male worker for Hartley’s Stores was arrested after it was discovered his visa had been cancelled because the college he previously studied at in London had stopped taking foreigners. It meant he should have returned home and so was working at the shop illegally.
A 24-year-old Indian woman, who worked there and lived in a flat behind it with her 24-year-old husband, was initially cleared because her visa said she was dependant on him.
But word came in that he was working at Chidham Stores more than 20 hours a week, which broke the terms of his living conditions.
The couple were both arrested and the husband was marched to Hartley’s Stores so he could collect his belongings.
He was taken to Haslar Immigration Removal Centre, in Haslar, which is for men only, and his wife was driven to Waterlooville Police Station. Arrangements are being made to put them in a detention centre together before they are sent back to India, pending an appeal.
Chief immigration officer Simone Sheppard said a tough approach is taken because breaching a visa is a serious offence.
‘It’s a serious offence because people come here thinking they can work illegally,’ she said.
‘It costs the people who are here legally and it’s funding serious organised crime. It’s important that we find these people.
‘If you are here illegally, we will find you. It’s so important that people tell us what’s going on.
‘If you think there are illegal workers in your area then tell us.’
A 27-year-old Indian man at Liquor Land, in London Road, North End, Portsmouth, was arrested for working there more than 20 hours a week.
A 19-year-old Indian man working at Nisalocal, in Clarendon Road, Southsea, were also arrested because he’s not allowed to have a job. The pair, who live together in Halliday Crescent, Eastney, Portsmouth, were taken to Haslar Immigration Removal Centre.
The shops have 28 days to prove they made proper checks or face a fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they’ve employed.
Team uses computer links to run checks on suspected staff
WEARING stab proof jackets, Home Office workers sat around a table preparing raids on businesses, writes Miles O’Leary.
These men and women were professionals who knew what to expect in the heat of the moment.
No sooner after the meeting started, we were on the road ready for a day of action.
It was a smooth operation. The officers allowed staff to finish serving their customers before the questions began.
Customers were calmly and politely told at the door to come back later.
Immigration workers who weren’t at the front line were just as important.
Back at the team’s headquarters in Norman House, Buckland, Portsmouth, staff ran checks on foreign workers being questioned.
A ‘RapID’ device was used to scan people’s fingerprints.
The data was then transmitted back to the office and within 30 seconds it told you someone’s name, age and whether they had a right to live and work in the UK. It’s used because people sometimes give out a false name.
Raids carried out regularly
IMMIGRATION teams don’t just carry out raids on businesses.
They also visit people’s homes if they’ve got enough evidence to prove they’re living there illegally.
Operations are carried out in the Portsmouth area once a week and across Hampshire four times a week.
Chief immigration officer Simone Sheppard said illegal activity is an issue everywhere.
‘It’s the same anywhere,’ she said.
‘Portsmouth isn’t a particular hot spot – it’s happening all over the country, and not just in the busy cities.’
Talking about why people come to live and work illegally, Ms Sheppard said: ‘I understand people’s reasons for doing it.
‘However there are enforcement laws and the right way of doing things. Unfortunately you get the consequences that comes with doing that.
‘It’s not fair on the people who are doing it the right way and are getting the right visas and working to them.
‘It takes jobs away from them. We get out four times a week, across all of Hampshire.’
The raids yesterday were more unusual because simultaneous ones were carried out because the shops had the same owner.
‘We don’t normally do two premises at the same time,’ Ms Sheppard said.
She also had a message for businesses wary of who they might be taking on.
‘Do your checks,’ she said.
‘Check their documents and if you are unsure there are helplines.’
Call the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 or the Employer Helpline on 0300 123 4699