The government has been urged to grant a ‘curry chef amnesty’ for restaurant employees that have been working illegally in the UK.
The Asian Catering Federation (ACF) wants restaurant staff who have been living in the UK for over five years without the correct paperwork to legitimately brought into the system.
Half of all Asian restaurants and takeaways could close in the next decade because of rising costs and a lack of trained chefs, it has been claimed.
This “chronic” shortage of curry chefs has meant that some unscrupulous restaurant owners exploit those who entered the country illegally or have overstayed their visas.
The illegal workers are often paid below the minimum wage, receive no statuary benefits and are often forced to live in cramped, unhygienic conditions. Because they are paid in cash, the government is being cheated out of millions of pounds in unpaid income tax, National Insurance and VAT payments.
The illegal practice makes it hard for honest, lawful business to compete, according to Yawar Khan, chairman of the ACF (pictured).
“By releasing hard-working restaurant illegals from the hands of exploitative business owners, they would be free to enter the legitimate workplace, enjoy decent pay and conditions and help relieve the severe staff shortages in the industry,” he explained. “They would also then contribute their fair share of tax.”
The ACF also wants to see asylum seekers receive temporary work permits while seeking the right to remain in the UK. At present asylum seekers are not permitted to undertake paid work before they are given leave to remain. The process often takes more than six months to complete.
Mr Khan believe this will reduce the burden on the state and fill much-needed vacancies. At present there are over 30,000 UK asylum applications pending.
Companies found guilty of knowingly employing illegal workers can be fined up to £20,000 for each illegal immigrant they employ. If found guilty of a criminal offence, company directors can receive an unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to five years.
At present, two curry restaurants are closing each week, and the ACF has warned that 50% of Asian restaurants and takeaways will close in the next decade, because of rising costs and a shortage of trained chefs.