Farmer fined £20,000 for employing illegal workers

A poultry farm near Crediton, Devon, has been fined £20,000 after employing 13 illegal immigrant workers from Afghanistan and Namibia.

Immigration officers and Devon & Cornwall police discovered the workers last July, in a dawn raid of Merrifield Farm, which produces barn-reared and free-range chicken and ducks.

Since the operation, three workers from Namibia and two from Afghanistan have been deported from the UK. The farm was issued with an on-the-spot penalty notice and initially faced fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.

The UK Border Agency requested proof that legally required checks had been carried out before employing the immigrants, but Merrifield Farm failed to provide sufficient evidence for six of the illegal workers – incurring a fine of £20,000.

The raid was one the biggest operations targeting illegal working in the region that the UK Border Agency for Wales and the South West had been involved in. “As this significant fine shows, we will not turn a blind eye to foreign nationals working in the UK without permission,” said regional director Jane Farleigh.

“The message is clear for employers – we will not tolerate illegal working. It is a crime that not only undercuts local business but also has a serious impact on communities, taking jobs from those who are genuinely allowed to work.”

• Employers unsure of the steps they need to take to avoid employing illegal workers can visit the UK Border Agency.

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