ONE of Huddersfield’s best-known and busiest restaurants has been raided in a major immigration swoop.
About 35 immigration officials and police officers shut down Jumbo’s Chinese restaurant while they carried out checks on all dozen staff working there at 6.10pm yesterday.
The Jumbo chain also has restaurants in York and Sheffield. They were also raided at exactly the same time in a carefully co-ordinated operation.
Officials were looking for illegal immigrants or failed asylum seekers working at the restaurants.
At Jumbo’s on John William Street in Huddersfield town centre half the 12 staff on duty – five men and one woman – were detained and taken to Huddersfield police station for further questioning about immigration issues.
In York a dozen staff tried to escape through a back door, but were all caught. Again six were arrested.
In Sheffield one man was arrested.
Police are expected to visit homes in Huddersfield and York later today as the investigation continues. Further arrests are expected.
Jumbo’s in Huddersfield was allowed to re-open just before 7pm.
The raids came after immigration officials gathered intelligence information that people suspected of being illegal immigrants or failed asylum seekers could be working in the restaurants.
A special immigration Criminal Investigation Team is also involved, looking at any potential criminal matters, especially relating to forged documents.
A senior immigration official said afterwards: “This was a great result for our teams and shows the Borders and Immigration Agency’s dedication to putting a stop to illegal working in Yorkshire.
“We can only continue with this hard work with the public’s help.’’
Insp David Glover, of Huddersfield Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We are very willing to work closely with other agencies to make sure businesses in Huddersfield are being run correctly.’’
Police asked all the diners to leave immediately so the staff could be gathered in one part of the large restaurant to go through detailed immigration checks, including fingerprinting using the latest mobile technology.
This meant any suspected illegal immigrants could be checked immediately against databases. Anyone from outside Europe who now applies for a visa is fingerprinted before they leave their own countries.
All the diners were happy to do leave, especially as they were not charged for their meals.
Friends Alison Downsbrough, 20, Anjulee Parmer, 21, and Rachel Haigh, 20 – all from Salendine Nook – had all just finished their meals anyway. Anjulee said: “We were quite shocked at first when all the police walked in. We didn’t know what was happening.’’
And Alison said: “The officers asked everyone to get up and leave, saying we didn’t have to pay.’’
Rachel said: “We’d just finished our meal anyway, so we couldn’t believe it. The police were really polite.’’
Chris Hudson, the head of the Borders and Immigration Agency in Yorkshire, the North-East and Humberside, revealed that there had been 1,100 operations against suspected immigration offences in the region since last April.
“All are based on intelligence and information that there may be a breach of immigration law, often by employers,’’' he said. “Last night's operation was done simultaneously in Huddersfield, York and Sheffield at restaurants where we believe people were being employed illegally.’’'
He said it was unfair on companies which stayed within the law, adding that employers who take on illegal immigrants don’t pay tax or National Insurance for them, the employees have no rights and no protection about being under-paid. Some are vulnerable to exploitation.
Mr Hudson said that in the next few weeks the fines are set to soar for employers who employ people unlawfully. In the future it could cost them £10,000 for every illegal member of staff, a massive rise from the current £2,000 limit.
He also stressed that it was up to the employer to carry out the necessary checks into their employees' background.
“It is a civil, not a criminal matter, but will be a big step in tackling illegal immigration,’’ said Mr Hudson.
“People don't like to see labour on the cheap as it undermines genuine, law-abiding employers.’’
He added: “We have removed more than 1,000 people from the region back to their home countries as a result of our work.’’
Some are failed asylum seekers, others have entered the country illegally and some have come to visit and decided to stay, even though they have no right to be here.
Mr Hudson added that by the end of the year the Government intends to make it compulsory for foreign nationals from outside the European Union to be given identity cards here after they arrive.