UK PM Rishi Sunak joins raid on illegal migrants, 105 arrested

London: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined the UK Home Office enforcement officials on a raid as part of a nationwide crackdown on illegal migration, which ended in the arrest of 105 foreign nationals from across 20 nationalities.

Sunak, 43, dressed in a bulletproof vest, attended one of the actions in Brent, north London, earlier this week to observe Immigration Enforcement officers at work as part of their “day of action”.

The British Indian leader has made cracking down on illegal migration one of his government’s top priorities ahead of a general election, expected next year.

“Illegal working harms our communities, cheats honest workers out of employment and defrauds the public purse as no taxes are paid,” said UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

“As the Prime Minister has set out, we are committed to tackling the abuse of our laws and borders. We know the prospect of black-market employment is a significant attraction for migrants considering making dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK. Operations such as today send a clear message that we will not stand for this,” she said.

During the operation, which took place across the UK on Thursday, Immigration Enforcement officers arrested 105 foreign nationals found working without the right to do so during 159 raids on suspected illegal work establishments.

The arrests took place at commercial premises including restaurants, car washes, nail bars, barber shops and convenience stores. Suspects were arrested for offences including illegal working and possession of false documentation, with sums of cash also seized at some locations.

Of those arrested, over 40 were detained by the Home Office pending their removal from the UK, with the remaining suspects being released on immigration bail. It is also expected that a number of the arrests will result in a voluntary departure from the UK, the Home Office said.

“This result demonstrates the dedication and professionalism of our officers to take action against immigration offenders, as well as employers who are not complying with the rules. Our enforcement teams are working around the clock to deter immigration offending and help protect the public,” said Eddy Montgomery, Director of Enforcement, Compliance and Crime at the Home Office.

“Working closely with partners and agencies including the police and the National Crime Agency (NCA), we are tackling illegal work at every level. It is vital that we not only identify individuals in breach of immigration law but target the people smuggling networks behind this type of criminal activity,” he said.

While offenders of over 20 different nationalities were found to be working without proper visa rights to be in the UK, the countries involved have not been identified.

The Home Office said the operation builds on the ongoing work by Immigration Enforcement officers to clamp down on illegal working, which is a key part of the government’s approach to stopping the boats crossing the English Channel illegally. The operation is aimed at tackling illegal migration by breaking the business model of criminal gangs who use the offer of black market jobs as one way to draw people to the UK illegally, officials added.

In the first quarter of 2023, Immigration Enforcement teams claim they delivered 1,303 enforcement visits, a 57 per cent increase on the same period last year. And, since Sunak set out his plan in December last year to stop the boats crossing illegally into the UK, arrests are said to have doubled compared to the same period last year.