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Byron burger chain faces backlash after migrants detained in immigration raids

Thousands of people take to social media to criticise restaurant chain after 35 workers detained

Rachael Pells
Thursday 28 July 2016 18:10 BST
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A number of groups said they are planning a public demonstration outside one of Byron's London branches following allegations the company betrayed its workers
A number of groups said they are planning a public demonstration outside one of Byron's London branches following allegations the company betrayed its workers (Rex/ Shutterstock)

Dozens of migrant workers at gourmet burger chain Byron Hamburgers have been arrested in an immigration raid, sparking a public backlash against the company.

The Home Office confirmed 35 people from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt had been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences at restaurants in London.

London-based Spanish language newspaper El Iberico reported that some 150 more staff were "in hiding" after the raids, which a number of employees claim took place after they were asked to attend staff health and safety training sessions that had been set up as a "trap".

Sources claimed they had been invited to attend a the session on the day of the raid, before being met by immigration officers, a claim the company has refused to respond to.

The Home Office dismissed the claims, but said the operation, carried out on 4 July, had taken place with Byron's "full co-operation".

One worker told El Iberico: "People are angry and frightened by this situation. In the years I've been in the business I had never seen anything like it."

In a statement on Facebook, an assemblage of independent groups called on the general public to boycott the company and join in protest next month over Byron’s treatment of its staff.

A spokesperson said: “No human being is illegal. No one is disposable."

Employees said some of the workers arrested had been part of the company for four years.

A Byron spokesperson said in a statement: “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 Home Office recognises that Byron as an employer is fully compliant with immigration and asylum law in its employment practices, and that Byron had carried out the correct ‘right to work’ checks on staff members, but had been shown false/counterfeit documentation.

"At Byron we are proud of the diversity of our restaurant teams, built around people of all backgrounds and all walks of life.

"We have cooperated 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."

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