The UKBA operation has resulted in the deportation of at least seven foreign students.
22 August 2012
Tesco workers deported after breaching UK visa conditions
A UK Border Agency (UKBA) operation at a Tesco.com warehouse in South London has uncovered 20 foreign students working hours well in excess of their UK visa conditions.
Current UK visa regulations allow foreign students to work 20 hours a week during term time but the students, mainly of Bangladeshi or Indian origin, found at the Tesco.com building in Croydon were reportedly working as much as 70 hours a week.
The UK Government has pledged to crackdown on visa abuse recently, with a particular focus on international students abusing the work rights in their visas. The UKBA operation in Croydon is not the first of its kind but its involvement with such a high profile name reflects the Government’s intention to act.
"We received information that some staff members were working in the UK illegally at Tesco.com on Factory Lane, Croydon," said a UKBA spokesperson.
"In response officers carried out an operation in full cooperation with the company shortly after 3am on Saturday 21 July, 2012. Twenty individuals have been arrested and now face removal from the UK.
"The operation was part of an ongoing campaign to tackle visa abuse which has seen over 2,000 offenders removed since the beginning of May."
A spokesperson for Tesco said the company was aware of the UKBA operation and had even provided the students with overtime so the Border Agency could 'catch them in the act'. The company has defended its system for detecting illegal workers but could now face a fine up to £200,000.
"We continue to cooperate fully with the UK Border Agency as they look into this issue. We take our responsibilities as an employer very seriously and do not condone illegal working of any kind," said the spokesperson.
"We have a comprehensive system for ensuring all the correct procedures are followed in this area which has been externally audited and generally works well. We have now taken additional steps to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again."
So far seven of the 20 arrested have been deported but all 20 are likely to face the same fate.
Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the case highlights the need of visa holders to be aware of the rights and restrictions of their particular visa.
"If Tesco with all its size and infrastructure is capable of letting such things slip, then so are most businesses. If your employer offers you extra hours or shifts, make sure you're not breaking any rules or exceeding any limits first; it's better to be safe than sorry.
"Tesco may have been fined and embarrassed over this story, but it's the students that are returning home and will most likely never be allowed to enter the UK again. Don't risk it."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.