17:26 GMT21 September 2020
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    A backlash is underway on social media against a burger chain at the center of an immigration row in Britain after the Home Office arrested illegal migrants who were found to be working there.

    People are calling for a boycott of the Byron Burger chain after staff were arrested in a planned immigration raid.

    Meanwhile, others state their bafflement at the proposed boycott suggesting that the restaurant chain has done nothing wrong.

    News initially broke on Spanish website El Iberico that dozens of staff had been arrested by immigration officials.

    Byron Burger shop in London.
    © Flickr / Gareth Milner
    Byron Burger shop in London.

    The arrest itself doesn't appear to be the problem; it's how they were arrested that has led to a social media backlash against the burger chain.

    Sources told the Spanish website that staff had been told by management to attend a training day. Shortly after the staff arrived — so did Home Office officials to arrest any migrants deemed "irregular."

    A spokesman for Byron said some staff members were arrested on suspicion of not having the right to work in the UK and possessing fraudulent work permits.

    "The Home Office recognizes that Byron as an employer is fully compliant with immigration and asylum law in its employment practices, and that Byron had carried out the correct 'right to work' checks on staff members, but had been shown false/counterfeit documentation."

    The Home Office has confirmed that 35 people were arrested from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt, adding that Byron had carried out the correct "right to work" checks but had been provided with fake documents.

    Subsequently, Byron won't face any penalty action.

    Deputy leader of the Green Party Amelia Womack said that:

    "…The bosses at Byron should be utterly ashamed of themselves for turning these people's lives upside down."

    The hashtag #BoycottByron quickly ensued on social media with the burger chain accused of laying an immigration trap for its workers.

    Spanish newspaper El Iberico reportedly told panicked staff that they knew what was going on when Home Office staff entered the training room and said:

    "We prepared this."

    The boycott has since gone viral on social media with some Twitter users calling the restaurant "morally repugnant" and guilty of exploiting immigrants before deporting them.

    It is a criminal offence, punishable by an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail if a person or a company is found to be employing someone, knowingly, or have reasonable cause to believe that the employee is not allowed to work in the UK due to their immigration status.

    Every employer or company is required to comply with the law, in this instance, that means not employing people who are living in Britain illegally or don't have the right to work.

    Increase in Immigration Raids

    ​Hotel Workers Branch released a statement on Facebook, following the Byron Burger staff arrests. It states that while there are not enough revenue and customs (HMRC) inspectors to enforce the minimum wage — and too few health and safety (HSE) inspectors to enforce every workplace is safe, "at the same time there has been a massive increase in immigration raids — up by 80 percent, and now averaging 11 a day in London.

    "The recent raids on Byron Burgers were apparently as a result of an intelligence based investigation. The workers currently detained had been with the company a long time. They had contracts of employment, they were paying tax and national insurance, they were settled, the company say they complied with employment laws. So these workers weren't going anywhere. They were not about to abscond," the statement read.

    "There was no need for the authorities to show boat and engage in some sort of street theater with workplace raids and arrests that upset their work colleagues who had established close friendships with those taken away.

    "The whole thing could have been dealt with more humanely and subtly and that's what people are angry about."

    In the case of the Byron Burger arrests, it seems that complying with Home Office staff and allegedly duping employees into thinking that they are attending a training day when in reality they are being rounded up to be checked and potentially deported by Home Office staff, means it's possible for a big business to escape the full force of the UK's immigration law.


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