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Teesside firms caught employing illegal workers have paid back only a fraction of their fines; Teesside MP says repayment figure is 'concerning' as stats show tougher new laws are having little impact on illegal staff being hired in region.

Byline: Ian Johnson

Teesside businesses have repaid just a fraction of the fines imposed on them for employing illegal foreign workers.

Since 2011, the Home Office has fined the region's firms £787,500 - but only £159,073 of that's been repaid.

"It is concerning that a lot of the money is not being collected," said Redcar MP Anna Turley.

"It makes me question whether the deterrent is working if unscrupulous businesses can avoid or reduce the payments."

Exclusive figures reveal that over the last five years, an immigration raid occurs in Teesside every four days on average.

In total there have been:

* 418 immigrations raids

* 183 arrests

* 80 illegal workers removed from the UK

* 76 fines imposed on employers

The vast majority of those raids take place in the TS1 and TS18 areas.

However, despite the deterrent of unlimited fines, the vast majority of money remains unpaid.

The Home Office insists it "robustly" pursues all outstanding debt, with the law toughened up so that directors who defaulted on payments can be disqualified.

Most firms can have the fines slashed by 30% if they are paid within three weeks.

Business can even set up a payment plan to pay off the debt over 36 months.

These measures mean that on average it takes over two years to recover the debt.

But Labour MP Ms Turley added: "The government must ensure fines are paid in full

"Businesses who knowingly employ illegal workers undermine employment opportunities for other workers at a time when so many people are looking for work. They are exploiting people's desperation.

"If caught, the consequences should be severe enough to deter them and others from doing it again."

In recent years, tougher punishments have been implemented in a bid to deter illegal working.

In 2014, the Government announced repeat offenders faced a £20,000 fine per-illegal worker.

It also reduced the number of documents deemed acceptable as proof of the worker's right to work in the UK.

Yet despite these deterrents, figures show they've had no major impact on illegal working in Teesside.

Enforcement visits rose last year, while the number of fines remained the same.

A Home office spokesperson said: "Where an employer fails to pay the penalty in full or by the faster payment option, we will pursue payment of the outstanding debt using external debt collection agencies.

"Where an employer does not pay and becomes liquidated or bankrupt, we share their details with the Insolvency Service who will use this information in its investigations under the Company Directors Disqualification Act (CDDA) 1986.

"Since May 2013, this has resulted in over 40 directors of limited companies who have been issued with civil penalties disqualified from being a company director in the UK for significant periods.

"Following a recent legislative change we now also refer directors of 'live' businesses who have defaulted on payment of the civil penalty to the Insolvency Service for director disqualification action."

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Article Details
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Author:Ian Johnson
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England) (Online Ed.)
Date:Aug 11, 2016
Next Article:Here are the places most likely to be raided by immigration police in Teesside; Home Office statistics show the areas most at risk of illegal working...

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