Upmarket fast-food chain Byron Burger has been condemned for “underhand trickery” and faces a boycott from consumers after it was alleged it helped the Home Office deported some staff from its London restaurants.
Spanish newspaper El Ibérico reported an anonymous employee claiming staff were asked to attend what they believed was a training session before some members of staff were asked to move to a separate room where immigration officials were waiting.
Speaking to The Guardian, a senior worker said: “It is f***ing disgusting. Some of these people worked here for four or five years and they weren’t even given a chance to say goodbye.”
The Home Office said 35 people from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt were arrested for immigration offences at a number of restaurants across London.
It added that the operation was carried out with the “full co-operation” of Byron earlier this month. A spokesman for the Home Office dismissed reports that an event was set up to lure workers to one place for immigration officials.
However, the hashtag #boycottbyron trended on Twitter with people posting their outrage.
Others couldn’t see the problem.
Protests are planned on Monday at one of the company’s branches in Central London. Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green Party, who plans to go to the protests, said:
“These reports are deeply shocking. If these accusations are true than the bosses at Byron should be utterly ashamed of themselves for turning people’s lives upside down.
“Nobody wants people to be working illegally in the UK- not least because they face exploitation from unscrupulous bosses – but this alleged act of underhand trickery from Byron is unforgivable.
“Those 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.”
The burger business carried out the correct “right to work” checks on staff members, but had been shown false or counterfeit documentation, and will therefore not face civil penalty action, the Home Office said.
A Byron statement 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.”
The burger chain said the Home Office recognises that as an employer Byron is “fully compliant with immigration and asylum law in its employment practices”.
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.”