Immigration swoop on food company
Police and UK Border Agency officials have swooped on a firm that claims to supply food companies including McDonald's and Sharwoods, in a hunt for illegal immigrants.
Around 100 officers targeted Honeytop Speciality Foods in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, at around 9pm on Tuesday amid suspicions illegal workers were employed there.
The operation was part of a national summer campaign by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to clamp down on abusive employers and illegal working. It comes just weeks after 33 illegal workers were arrested during a raid on textile businesses in Leicester.
On Tuesday night 60 UKBA officers, 40 Bedfordshire police officers and officers from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority checked the immigration status of around 200 workers at Honeytop.
The company, based on the Woodside Industrial Estate, makes food including naan breads, tortillas, and pancakes and claims on its website to supply McDonald's and "all Sharwoods branded naan breads", as well as "all major UK retailers", and "many major retailers across Europe".
But just six people were arrested in Tuesday night's swoop, a result the UKBA admitted was "disappointing".
Simon Excell, UKBA deputy director in the Midlands and East, said: "We deployed to Honeytop Foods working off intelligence that illegal workers were present within the company.
"We have spoken to around about 200 members of staff, a lot of them have been British or European nationalities and in the end we have arrested six illegal workers, they are now being transported to an Immigration Removal Centre.
"It is a disappointing result, we had good intelligence, we have been able to speak to the night shift. But it's sending a very strong message, the message is that we will deal with illegal workers in big or small companies, that if intelligence dictates we do deploy then we will do so."
One of the business's owners William Eid, who was called to the factory on Tuesday night, said he was unaware any of his workers were working illegally. He said he was happy to provide all of the firm's documents to UKBA officials, adding: "Our business has a first class reputation."