IMMIGRATION officials raided a fast food shop in Henley on Monday afternoon and arrested two men who are to be deported. The shop owner could face fines of up to £30,000 if he is found guilty of hiring illegal workers.
At least six agency officers swooped on Southern Fried Chicken & Pizza in Greys Road at about 4pm and bundled three men into a waiting van.
The two men who have been arrested are aged 27 and 28 and from Pakistan. They have been sent to detention centres and are awaiting deportation.
A third man, who is 33 and also from Pakistan, was put on immigration bail while the UK Border Agency investigates his case.
The uniformed squad turned up in a white van, with others following in a car. An agency spokesman said the three men turned up for work just before officers entered the restaurant. He said they were all wearing work uniforms.
The team carried out checks and found the 28 and 33-year-olds had overstayed their UK visas. The 27-year-old had a valid visa but was not entitled to work.
Eddie Dinarvand, who owns the shop, faces a penalty of up to £10,000 for each man unless he proves he carried out background checks. He must submit his evidence to the Border Agency within two weeks.
Mr Dinarvand vowed to fight the fines and insisted he had not broken the rules.He said the 33-year-old had a work permit, which he had seen.
He said the 27-year-old, a student, had worked for him in the past when he had a valid working visa and was helping as an unpaid favour because one of his regular staff was unavailable.
He claimed not to know the other man, who he said was friends with the 27-year-old and was buying food.
Mr Dinarvand denied that the two arrested men were wearing uniforms.
He said: “£30,000 is a joke and I will fight it in court if I have to. All my staff are here legally and I have nothing to hide.
“I’ve been in Henley for 12 years and I know the rules — I’m not stupid. I wouldn’t take on illegal workers. I only spoke to the officers briefly because I arrived in the last few minutes of the raid. It was such a huge shock.
“I told the officers that (the 27-year-old) was only here for two weeks, but I didn’t have a chance to tell them I wasn’t paying him because they were just leaving.
“I appreciate that they were just doing their job and I have nothing against them, but I haven’t done anything wrong.
“I just hope this is cleared up as soon as possible.”
The Border Agency said no other raids had been carried out in the Henley area.
A spokesman said officers were “acting on intelligence” but would not give further details.
Paul Smith, head of Thames Valley enforcement for the UK Border Agency, said:
“This is the latest in a series of raids we have carried out in the Thames Valley and more are planned.
“For those who are in the country illegally, there is no hiding place.”