Bosses at a chicken factory in Preston could face criminal prosecution after the third immigration raid at the facility in six years.
Immigration Enforcement officials said three men were arrested when around 60 officers visited Gafoor Pure Halal in Fletcher Road, Deepdale, on Friday.
In previous raids in 2008 and 2009, 25 suspected illegal workers were found and a total of £12,500 in civil penalties were imposed on the company.
However, Home Office officer Jon Cass, who led the operation, said: “When they’ve been visited in the past and found to be using these illegal workers they have been given civil penalties.
“What we need to look at is if the same people have been responsible for the employment of illegal workers. If that’s the case we could take the view that they haven’t paid any attention to the civil penalties and could arrest them and charge them.”
During the raid two of the three men were found hiding in a freezer, and had to be warmed up with blankets before they could be taken away in a police van.
Two men were arrested for overstaying their visas, an Indian man aged 25 and a Pakistani man aged 25. Another Indian man, aged 22, was arrested for working in breach of his visa conditions.
Det Sgt Cass said the 22-year-old man had produced a forged document and had been conditionally cautioned.
He said: “When people come here it’s quite clear on their visas whether or not they can work here. Some of them are limited for the number of hours they can work and some of them aren’t allowed to work here at all.
“All three of these men are now in immigration detention, pending removal from the country. Obviously there are rights to appeal that these individuals have, but I am not aware that they have exercised any of those yet.”
If deported, the men will most likely be given conditions restricting them from returning to the UK. In cases such as this, deportation is seen as more cost effective than making illegal workers face criminal charges and possible imprisonment.
Det Sgt Cass said: “It’s looking at the most effective way from the taxpayers’ point of view of dealing with these individuals.”
Investigations regarding the latest visit to the factory are ongoing and a decision on penalties will be taken at a later date.
Three brothers founded Preston-based Gafoor Poultry Producers in 1964.
One of the UK’s longest serving halal meat suppliers, it supplies retail, wholesale, catering and hospitality industries.
The firm went into administration in 2010 and the company’s assets were sold to Gafoor Pure Halal. Director Ozayr Patel is a member of the family that controlled the original company.
There was no answer yesterday when the Evening Post phoned Gafoor Pure Halal multiple times to request a comment.
Last Thursday the Government published the Immigration Bill, which carries proposals to clamp down on illegal working and rogue employers. These include potentially doubling the maximum penalty for those using illegal labour to £20,000 and making it easier to enforce unpaid debts in the civil courts.