Immigration officials have arrested dozens of people working at the Byron burger chain in the United Kingdom. The illegal workers were from a range of countries including Albania, Brazil, Nepal, and Egypt. Left-wing activists are boycotting the chain in response, in protest at the perceived infringement of workers’ rights.
In total 35 people were arrested at locations across London, the Home Office said. The chain has 56 branches nationwide. Officials added that the arrests were carried out with the “full co-operation” of Byron earlier this month, The Telegraph has reported.
They confirmed that the chain will not face civil penalty action, as it had carried out the correct “right to work” checks on prospective employees but had been handed counterfeited documents.
However, the chain faced a backlash from some who complained that it had acted unethically, following a report that management had colluded in the arrests by luring employees to staff meetings. The report was denied by Home Office staff.
In a statement, The Home Office said: “Immigration Enforcement officers carried out intelligence-led visits to a number of Byron restaurants across London on July 4, arresting 35 people for immigration offences.
“The operation was carried out with the full co-operation of the business.”
A Home Office spokesman dismissed the report that the chain set up false staff meetings in order to lure workers to one place for immigration officials.
A senior worker had told The Guardian: “It is f****** disgusting. Some of these people worked here for four or five years and they weren’t even given a chance to say goodbye.”
In support of the illegal workers, Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green party, said: “These reports are deeply shocking. If these accusations are true than [sic] the bosses at Byron should be utterly ashamed of themselves for turning people’s lives upside down.
“People who are settled and working in the UK should be able to apply for residency so as to continue contributing to our society and our economy.”
In response, some Twitter users took to the social media platform to protest, tweeting under the hashtag #BoycottByron.
Absolutely baffled by people attempting to defend @byronhamburgers – point is about what sort of basic humanity we owe to one another…
— Jack Shenker (@hackneylad) July 28, 2016
— Abi Wilkinson (@AbiWilks) July 27, 2016
Not everyone was against the chain, however:
— Alex Kirby (@Mister_Kirby) July 28, 2016
— Richard Bleach (@Bleeech) July 28, 2016
In a statement, Byron said: “We can confirm that several of Byron’s London restaurants were visited by representatives of the Home Office.
“These visits resulted in the removal of members of staff who are suspected by the Home Office of not having the right to work in the UK, and of possessing fraudulent personal and right to work documentation that is in breach of immigration and employment regulation.”
The business added: “We have co-operated fully and acted upon the Home Office’s requests throughout the course of the investigations leading to this action, and will continue to do so.”
And it added that the Home Office had recognised that as an employer Byron is “fully compliant with immigration and asylum law in its employment practices”.
A spokesman refused to respond to the claims that a false meeting was set up, according to The Guardian.