Activists release insects in two London branches of Byron

01 August 2016 by
Activists release insects in two London branches of Byron

Burger chain Byron was forced to close two of its London restaurants after protestors released hundreds of live insects into its St Giles and Holborn sites on Friday (29 July) evening.

Activists from organisations London Black Revs and the Malcolm X Movement let out a "swarm of insects" in the restaurants in response to the chain's involvement in an immigration sting against its own workers.

The organisations said they unleashed 8,000 crickets, 4,000 cockroaches and 1,000 locusts in response to Byron's "despicable actions in the past weeks having entrapped waiters, back of house staff and chefs in collaboration with the UK Border Agency."

Immigration enforcement officers carried out "intelligence-led visits" to a number of Bryon restaurants on 4 July and removed 35 staff from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt in order to "progress their removal from the UK".

Staff were allegedly told they would be attending a health and safety meeting before immigration officials showed up.

The Home Office said Byron had carried out the correct "right to work" checks on staff, but had been shown false or counterfeit documentation and therefore will not face civil penalty action.

It was said to have fully co-operated but the firm's involvement in the operation sparked a backlash on Twitter and Facebook.

Other protesters picketed outside restaurants over the weekend with #BoycottByron continuing to spread on social media.

In a joint statement on Facebook, the organisations said: "London Black Revs and the Malcolm X Movement shut down two Byron restaurants with a swarm of insects.

"Many thousands of live cockroaches, locusts and crickets [were released] into these restaurants. We apologise to customers and staff for any irritation, however, we had to act as forced deportations such as this and others are unacceptable, we must defend these people and their families from such dehumanised treatment."

The post went on to list a number of intentions for the actions which included "to make Byron pay for their horrifically exploitative misdeeds" and to "inspire others to ensure Byron is shut down".

Another reason was to "serve as a warning to other businesses in the hospitality and catering industry that you will be targeted by those who stand in solidarity with immigrants if you entrap migrant workers."

London Black Revs tweeted on Saturday: "We shut down Byrons Burgers yesterday. When they attack one of us. It's an attack on all of us."

A number of people also tweeted about insects being released into the restaurants while they were visiting and a journalist from Huck magazine witnessed the incident.

A spokeswoman for Byron said: "The safety of our customers and restaurant teams is paramount, and our priority is now to work with local police to minimise the risk of further incident."

Both restaurants reopened on Saturday after an all clear from pest control.

Byron supports Home Office removal of 35 staff working "illegally" >>

Openings drive Byron turnover increase >>

Byron to open its first restaurant in Scotland >>

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