Home Office steps up crackdown on illegal site workers

24 May 2016

Construction companies should brace themselves for more site raids from the Home Office, which is stepping up its campaign to root out illegal workers.

Operation Magnify, a UK-wide enforcement campaign, was launched in October 2015 to clamp down on firms employing and exploiting illegal migrant workers.

The Home Office is now intensifying its efforts to identify any culprits in the construction sector.

“Although many construction businesses complete the right-to-work checks, stolen and counterfeit documents are used sometimes by criminal gangs to enable migrants to work illegally in the UK,” said a Home Office statement. 

“If these are not spotted, businesses can inadvertently allow immigration offenders access to critical national infrastructure projects. Companies working on sensitive construction projects have a clear responsibility to safeguard the integrity of identity checking processes.”

The Home Office said immigration officers were working closely with other government departments to identify offenders and take action against construction companies that were using illegal workers on their sites.

“Construction businesses must have a strong understanding of the seriousness of this issue across the organisation,” the Home Office warned.

New legislation in last year’s Immigration Bill allows for tougher penalties and sanctions to be imposed on rogue employers who exploit illegal migrants, including closing down businesses that flout the law. 

Lincolnshire-based contractor Sword Construction faces a £400,000 fine after after an Operation Magnify site blitz found 20 illegal workers on one of its sites last October.

The CIOB has been working on the problem with the Home Office, and chief executive Chris Blythe called on main contractors to take more responsibility for checking their supply chains do not exploit illegal workers.

He said: “Contractors who duck out of their responsibilities by blaming the subcontractor risk reputational damage and are liable to incur significant financial penalties and site shutdowns. The uncertainty amongst clients which stems from reports of modern slavery also risks the image and success of the entire industry.”

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