The UK Border Agency has confirmed that it arrested 28 people on suspicion of working illegally at the construction site for the new Pembroke power plant in Wales this morning.
The Indian men, said to be employed by sub-contractor Sisk, were alleged to have committed a range of immigration offences including staying in the UK after their visas expired, entering the UK illegally and working in breach of their visa conditions.
If Sisk is unable to prove to the agency that right-to-work checks were carried out before giving the men jobs, a fine of up to £10,000 could be imposed for each worker.
A statement from Sisk said: “John Sisk & Son Ltd completely refutes the UK Border Agency’s assertion that it is employing illegal labour on the Pembroke site. We are certain that none of those arrested works for Sisk, but rather for sub-contractors working on the site.
“John Sisk & Son Ltd has robust policies to ensure that employees working for it and for sub-contractors comply with all relevant UK labour laws, including the Pink Book, and that everyone carries a valid CSCS card.
“As a respected contractor in the UK, John Sisk & Son Ltd condemns the actions of those responsible for breaking the law and the terms of their contract in bringing illegal labour onto the site. Sisk will support the UK Border Agency in robust action taken against them.”
Eleven remain in immigration detention pending deportation, one man has been arrested by Dyfed-Powys Police on suspicion of using a false identity document and 16 have been placed on immigration bail.
The site, which is employing an estimated 1,500 construction workers, hit the headlines earlier this year when there were rowdy demonstrations at the entrance to the site by people demanding construction jobs be given to British workers.
Julian Smith, who heads the UKBA’s South-west Wales Local Immigration Team, said: “This was a very complex operation which involved questioning 51 workers and carrying out searches of five residential addresses. It was by far the biggest illegal working operation in Wales this year.
“I hope this sends out a message to other employers that you need to ensure your staff are entitled to work in the UK. We don’t expect employers to be experts at detecting forgeries – that’s our job – but there is a legal obligation to carry out basic checks during the recruitment process.