Restaurant loses licence over illegal workers
By Sarah Wood | 13th October 2023
A Cheltenham restaurant has had its licence revoked because it employed illegal immigrants.
Cheltenham Borough Council's licensing sub-committee (alcohol and gambling) unanimously agreed to revoke Koloshi Bar & Restaurant's premises licence.
The Home Office's Immigration Enforcement Unit called for the council to review the premises licence following a visit to the restaurant in Charlton Kings in April 2023, after it received intelligence that the owners of the business were employing at least three illegal workers.
Since the Home Office visit, Koloshi said the premises licence had been transferred to a new licence holder.
Cllr David Willingham, chair of the sub-committee, said: "We expect full compliance with immigration legislation and we will not hesitate to take action against those who do not comply with the law.
"As part of the licence review, the sub-committee considered the recent transfer of premises licence and were not convinced by the arguments of the new licence holder. They believed the controlling influence over the business had not changed since the Home Office immigration visit in early April 2023.
"Due to concerns about continuing influence over the business by those involved in immigration offences, the committee unanimously determined to revoke the premises licence, as none of the other options provided an effective remedy."
The Home Office officers encountered approximately 12 employees in total, six of whom were immigration offenders. A referral was made to the Civil Penalty Compliance Team in relation to the illegal working and a penalty of £90,000 was issued to the business for the employment of six individuals with no right to work in the United Kingdom.
Among those spoken to by immigration officers, was a man who said he'd been working as a chef at the restaurant for three years.
He said he works six days a week, with Mondays off. He said he is paid by "The boss Azad," £400 cash in hand a month, with free food. He does not pay any income tax or National Insurance. He also said he lives at the premises.
The employer was interviewed by immigration enforcement officers and confirmed that he did not check any documents for the chef and knew that he was not allowed to work.
The chef was granted a visit visa on July 5, 2019 valid until January, 5 2020. He overstayed his visa and was in the UK illegally with no right to work.
In the Home Office report, it states: "The use of illegal labour provides an unfair competitive edge and deprives the UK economy of tax revenue. Illegal workers are often paid below the minimum wage (itself an offence) and National Insurance payments are not paid.
"The main draw for illegal immigration is work and low-skilled migrants are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal enterprises, finding themselves in appalling accommodation and toiling in poor working conditions for long hours for little remuneration.
"Immigration Enforcement asks that the premises licence is revoked. Merely remedying the existing situation (for instance by the imposition of additional conditions or a suspension) is insufficient to act as a deterrent to the licence holder and other premises' licence holders from engaging in criminal activity by employing illegal workers and facilitating disqualified immigrants to work illegally."
Restaurant image credit: Google Image Capture 2021
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