Immigration fine could see Mosque Kitchen closed

The Mosque Kitchen in Nicolson Square. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Mosque Kitchen in Nicolson Square. Picture: Neil Hanna

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THE manager of an Indian restaurant facing a fine of up to £70,000 for employing illegal immigrants today said that it threatened the popular eaterie’s future.

Officials from the Home Office found seven illegal workers from Pakistan and India at the Mosque Kitchen in Nicolson Square during a swoop.

But its manager said he had “no idea” that some staff members were working illegally, and blamed the previous management for failing to carry out proper checks.The boss, who asked not to be named, said that he had called a staff meeting only days before Wednesday’s raid when the workforce, including those detained, “swore on their lives” that they had proper immigration status.

The operation was carried out by Home Office immigration officials after a tip-off about the alleged illegalities.

The Mosque Kitchen will be served with a civil penalty notice for employing illegal workers. If its bosses are unable to provide evidence pre-employment checks were carried out, a fine of up to £70,000 will be imposed. The manager said: “I just took over in the last few weeks. These were employees recruited by the previous management. I was given assurances that the paperwork was all there and I had no idea what was going on.

“I was as shocked as anyone.

“I sat the staff down a few days ago and said to them, ‘If there are any issues, anything at all, you need to tell me now’. They swore on their lives and said they were 100 per cent.

“One man had been working at the Mosque Kitchen for two or three years, and he had been in the country for 15 years. His family are here and he has a National insurance number.” Checks by Home Office officials revealed that six men from Pakistan and one from India, aged between 22 and 57, had no right to work in the UK.

Five of them have been detained pending removal from Britain, while the other two must report to police while their outstanding immigration applications are concluded.

The restaurant manager added: “I’m not the type of person to employ illegal people. Everyone I’ve hired in the last two weeks has had paperwork checked and are 100 per cent from the UK. I’m waiting to speak to the Home Office to find out what’s happening. I hope we don’t get a large fine as it would be a big blow to the organisation. Hopefully they will appreciate the situation.”

Based first at the Edinburgh Central Mosque in Potterrow before its Nicolson Square move, the Mosque Kitchen opened after September 11, 2001 to help improve relations with the Islamic community.

Assistant Director Adam Scarcliffe, of the Home Office’s Scotland Immigration Enforcement Team, said: “Illegal working is not a victimless crime. It defrauds the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and cheats legitimate job ­seekers out of employment opportunities.”

alan.mcewan@edinburghnews.com

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