Photo: Southend Echo
A kebab shop in Essex, which substituted wages for an illegal worker with cigarettes, has been fined thousands of pounds by the government, an illegal and unethical method of payment.
Recently, the Home Office published new figures which have revealed the fact that a convenience store and a kebab shop, in the Maldon district, have been fined a total of £30,000 for a collaboration in employing illegal workers and paying them allegedly with cigarettes.
Londis Country Produce, a corner shop located in Chelmsford, Latchingdon Road, Cold Norton, and Maldon King Kebab, a kebab shop located in High Street, Maldon, have been fined £15,000 each for their illegal processes.
The data, which is released to the public every three months, for this information and the latest figures relate to penalties issued between April 1 and June 30 this year.
Four men, all Turkish nationals, were detained and arrested after a visit to Maldon King Kebab by immigration officers on January 29 this year.
Ronan McManus, senior licensing officer for Essex Police, told the sub-committee that a 19-year-old Turkish man had been “paid in cigarettes”.
He said: “On Sunday, January 29 this year immigration officers attended the premises and found four Turkish nationals working illegally at the premises.
“Two of these young men have entered [the UK] illegally and had appealed to remain which had been refused. For the remaining two, there was no trace of them having entered the country at all. The only other assumption to make is that they have also entered the country illegally.”
He added that revoking the licence would send a clear message that illegal working would not be tolerated.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Gilgil insisted the 19-year-old man had bought the cigarettes himself and was visiting from Turkey and not working in the shop despite wearing a Maldon King Kebab branded t-shirt found in a food preparation area.
“He admitted to working at the business and that on the day he was arrested he had been brought to work by the owner and was not paid in money but in cigarettes and food,” Mr McManus responded.
The 19-year-old arrived in the UK illegally on July 9, 2020, and claimed for asylum on the same date.
His asylum claim was refused on August 15, 2022, before an appeal was lodged against this refusal on August 18, 2022, which is still pending.
In addition, A 23-year-old also arrived in the UK by small boat on May 1, 2022, and made a claim for asylum on the same date, which remains outstanding.
The two others – a 22-year-old and 23-year-old – have never had permission to work in the UK but were wearing Maldon King Kebab branded shirts at the time of the raid.
Essex Police has now argued anything other than a full renovation is insufficient as a deterrent.
During the visit, the shop owner, Mehmet Gilgil, arrived at the High Street premises before becoming “clearly hostile” to the officers who had to leave due to the manager’s “hostile and angry behaviour.”
Home Office records have since revealed Gilgil, encountered to be illegally working at Maldon King Kebab in July 2014, has served as an overstayer, a person who remains in a country beyond the period for which their entry was granted.
According to the report, “Gilgil is subject to immigration control and has leave to remain in the United Kingdom until May 29, 2023.”
Consequently, these arrests led to Maldon District Council revoking the kebab shop’s late-night refreshment licence. This is after Essex police filed an application against them.
Despite his “hostile and angry behaviour,” the owner of the kebab shop pleaded with the authority’s licensing sub-committee not to remove his late-night licence, stating it would have a severe impact on his income as much of the shop’s trade was after 11pm. This means that much of his profit would decrease.
When councillors reviewed the licence on June 15, a statement as part of the documents, they said: “Essex Police asks that the premises licence is revoked.
“Merely remedying the existing situation (for instance by the imposition of additional conditions or a suspension) is insufficient to act as a deterrent to the licence holder and other premises’ licence holders from engaged in criminal activity by employing illegal workers and facilitating disqualified immigrants to work illegally.”
However, Mt Gilgil is determined to challenge the reviews because he said: “When the immigration officers came here, they weren’t working. They are my family friends in Turkey. They were not working, and the shop wasn’t open.”
He added he has proof he has permission to stay.
He said: “They can’t say that to me. I am a company director. How come I can open a company? When you open company you need a work permit, a National Insurance number, passport. I have got all of these.”
Edited by: Vicky Muzio
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