Immigration officers conducted a pre-dawn visit last Wednesday, executing six warrants at properties on Alma Road in Southampton, as part of a Home Office investigation into illegal working in the care sector. Six individuals of Botswanan and Zimbabwean origin were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, four of whom were believed to be working in the care industry. None of the suspects had permission to work in the UK.
The suspects, aged between 30 and 55, were questioned, and three of them have since been detained pending removal from the UK. One suspect agreed to leave the UK under the Voluntary Return Service, which supports individuals in the UK without status, or those claiming asylum, who want to return home voluntarily. One person was detained for document offences, while another was detained but later released on immigration bail.
The operation was conducted under Operation Brycem, a Home Office led investigation into illegal working in the care sector. According to South Central Immigration Enforcement Assistant Director, Matt Wilkinson, “These arrests have prevented those without employment rights in the UK from working with vulnerable people, and ensured that people abusing our immigration laws are brought to justice. The success of this operation shows that we will stop at nothing to protect the vulnerable within our communities and take firm action against those who are profiting from exploitation.”
All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working, with potential penalties of five years in jail and an unlimited fine for those found guilty of employing someone they knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to work in the UK. Medical professionals can apply for a Health and Care Worker visa, which allows them to work legally in the UK with the NHS, an NHS supplier, or in adult social care.
The Nationality and Borders Act will ensure that the UK immigration system is fair to those in genuine need and firm on those who seek to abuse it. The recent arrests demonstrate the government’s determination to take decisive action against those who exploit vulnerable individuals and flout immigration laws.