Chelmsford restaurant loses licence after illegal workers discovered during raid

A Chelmsford restaurant has been stripped of its licence after an immigration raid found illegal workers – one of whom had arrived illegally by small boat the year before.

Officers from the East of England Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement team say there were two illegal workers encountered at Mosaic in Springfield Road when officers visited on June 29, 2023.

However, Mosaic told the Chelmsford licensing review meeting they were not working at the premises. But immigration enforcement officers say one person was encountered whilst working behind a “Just Eat” terminal in a ‘staff only’ area and the other was washing dishes in the kitchen.

Mosaic said one of the men – a relative of the licence holder – had been lonely and, unable to speak English, was in the restaurant for companionship.

The committee noted that he had arrived in the UK illegally by small boat on May 7 2023 and had made an application for leave to remain.

The restaurant said he was only charging their mobile phone by the “Just Eat” terminal area and talking to the staff but otherwise not doing any work.

The committee was also told there was no evidence that the alleged illegal worker had been taking orders for delivery and the licence holder had offered Home Office CCTV footage showing evidence that there was no illegal work. It was alleged that this had been declined.

The committee noted that this reference to charging his mobile phone had only been made two days before the hearing.

It was suggested that the other alleged illegal worker might in fact have been washing his own dishes when encountered by ICE officers in the kitchen.

The committee noted that the licence holder had seen an asylum seeker card for this man and was aware that they could not take on either paid or unpaid employment.

The committee heard this person was homeless and one of the staff employed in Mosaic had allowed them a place to stay in the premises and to have free food.

The member of staff who had allowed this individual to stay on the premises was reported to have been dismissed.

The committee heard that initially, he told ICE officers in the course of the visit he was merely washing his hands.

The committee noted that if this person had in fact been washing his own dishes, then this would contradict with his original explanation that he was merely washing his hands.

Graham Hopkins, representing the restaurant, said the restaurant had set up new files for existing staff, had closed off rooms to prevent people living there and banned anyone but staff on its books from going behind the counter.

He said these could be included as conditions. He asked the committee not to revoke the licence but to impose conditions as seen fit.

The committee has concluded that both individuals were working illegally. A statement as a part of the decision said: “Notwithstanding the licence-holders denial and the explanations put forward by him for the two individuals in question being on the Mosaic restaurant premises, the committee was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that these two individuals were illegal workers employed at the premises at the time of the unannounced visit on the June 29 2023 by officers from the Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement Team (ICE).”

It adds: The committee had given consideration to the proposed conditions put forward by the licence-holders agent as an alternative option to revocation. However, the committee was of the view that revocation was the only appropriate course of action in this particular case.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter