DOZENS of foreign beauty workers have been arrested across Scotland in a Home Office crackdown on illegal immigration.
A total of 26 foreign nationals were arrested for a variety of immigration offences when officers swooped on nail bars across the Central Belt on Friday.
Nearly all of the offenders were of Vietnamese nationality, with the exception of one woman from Nepal who was working in an Edinburgh salon.
A 26-year-old woman found working illegally in Strathaven and a 24-year-old man arrested in Glasgow, both from Vietnam, have been detained as steps are taken to deport them.
The rest were released and ordered to report to the Home Office as their cases are considered.
Another 39-year-old Vietnamese man arrested in Livingston has also been passed on to police as part of ongoing criminal investigations.
The arrests could see the employers being hit by fines of up to £20,000 for each worker arrested, unless they can demonstrate that proper checks were carried out on passports and other documents proving a foreigner’s right to work in the UK.
There are currently no licensing regulations for nail bars, which makes them an easy front for criminals.
The raids, which saw officers swooping on hair and beauty businesses in Glasgow, Livingston, Edinburgh, Ayr, Paisley, Greenock, Strathaven, Wishaw, Clydebank, Cumbernauld and Hamilton, had been in planning for more than two months.
They were organised as part of a Scotland-wide initiative against serious and organised crime called Operation Harpina.
“Illegal workers have no place in the United Kingdom and through our combined work with the police we are committed to rooting out and removing the people who simply should not be here,” said immigration minister James Brokenshire.
“Illegal working is not victimless. It undercuts employers who ply an honest trade and robs legitimate job seekers of opportunities to work. It can also exploit some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“The new Immigration Bill, which will be introduced in parliament later this year, will create a new criminal offence of illegal working, allowing us to seize and confiscate illegal wages for what they are – the proceeds of crime.
“We will also continue to come down hard on the rogue employers who use illegal labour, whether by financial penalty or conviction.”
UK employers have a duty to prevent illegal working by conducting specified document checks on people before taking them on. A civil penalty scheme was introduced in 2008, but was doubled to £20,000 last year.
Ministers have said the penalty reflects the harm caused by employing illegal workers.