Catering groups and immigration lawyers have slammed the Government's new name-and-shame policy for firms employing illegal migrant workers, claiming it unfairly punishes good businesses and drives shady operators underground.
Khalil Hosenbux, principal lawyer at specialist immigration and nationality law firm the Immigration Lawyers, said: "Changes to the rules on work permits have exacerbated the problems as regards the inability to recruit specialist chefs, while raids carried out on restaurants to uncover illegal working have caused mayhem in numerous establishments.
"The new rules are lengthy and complex. This creates a risk that law-abiding employers may find themselves falling foul of this potentially damaging measure, while the worst employers are driven underground to the detriment of their employees."
Jabez Lam, co-ordinator of the Chinese Immigration Concern Committee, which is part of the Ethnic Catering Alliance, told Caterer that the changes in the rules on work permits following the introduction of a points-based skills system earlier this year had already created a shortage of skilled chefs.
"You do not have a single professional cookery school in the UK for Chinese or curry cooking - 12,000 curry houses and 17,500 Chinese kitchens in the UK, employing 90,000 and 100,000 workers, are looking at a shortage of 27,500 and 40,000 employees respectively.
"How can the Government expect a proper transition to the points-based scheme when the industry is unable to cope with the shortage in staff?"
Under the new laws, employers found to be using illegal migrant workers will be served with a notice of liability before an Illegal Working Civil Penalty Unit decides whether to impose a fine of up to £10,000 per worker.
By Christopher Walton
E-mail your comments to Christopher Walton here.