Saturday, 28 August 2010

Illegal Immigrants at the House of Commons

Police probe into illegal immigrants working as House of Commons cleaners

By  Jason Lewis

Illegal immigrants have been discovered working as cleaners at the House of Commons – an embarrassing security breach at the supposedly tightly guarded building.
All staff at the Palace of Westminster are required to undergo stringent background checks by police and the security services before being issued passes to the heart of Britain’s Government.
But this did not stop around ten  illegal immigrants getting jobs with KGB Cleaners, the outsourcing firm with the contract to clean lavatories, sweep corridors and polish floors in the Palace of Westminster.
The breach is all the more astounding as the cleaners would have enjoyed unchecked access to the offices of MPs and senior Government Ministers, including Prime Minister David Cameron.
vacuuming
House proud: A legal cleaner vacuums round the Queen's throne in the Lords
Last night the Home Office refused to say how many illegal immigrants had been discovered working at the Palace and for how long.
The group was rounded up after inquiries by the UK Borders Agency, and officials refused to give more details citing ‘on-going inquiries’.
But the Metropolitan Police were called in to arrest at least one of the immigrants, a 44-year-old Nigerian man, who was held at work at the Palace of Westminster on August 12 before being handed over to immigration officials.
It is understood he is now being held in a secure immigration holding centre awaiting removal from the UK.
The other individuals are understood to have been detained by UK Borders staff elsewhere and are also believed to have told they will be removed from Britain.
Last night a spokeswoman for the Palace of Westminster confirmed a number of people working as cleaners had been detained for immigration offences.
She said the group of ‘less than ten’ individuals had all been vetted when they first began working at the Houses of Parliament and had all been cleared by security officials.
However, she said, it was believed the immigration status of the individuals had changed and that they had failed to notify their employers or the Palace authorities.
She said it is thought several of the individuals were asylum seekers who had exhausted all avenues of appeal and had been told to leave Britain.
Others, she said, were understood to be over-stayers whose work visas or leave to remain in Britain had expired.
The latest blunder comes after a series of similarly embarrassing security breaches during the Labour Government’s years in office including the discovery that illegal immigrants were employed as cleaners in the Home Office department responsible for kicking them out of the country.
The five Nigerians were caught as they turned up for work at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate office in London. It is also not the first time KGB Cleaners, which employs 120 staff at the Commons, has been at the centre of controversy.
Last year cleaners at the House of Commons threatened strike action after being denied a 45p pay rise.
KGB took over cleaning services at the House of Commons in September 2008, giving existing staff a 60p rise to £7 an hour in line with the London Living Wage – a minimum pay level calculated to reflect the capital’s cost of living.
When the London Living Wage rose to £7.45 the company at first refused to raise wages accordingly.
The firm – named after the initials of its founders Kevan and Gina Brown – was set up in 1994 to, according to its website, ‘create an innovative environment where the expectations of both clientele and staff will be consistently met’.
The company has an annual turnover of £26 million.
Employers discovered using illegal immigrants are normally issued with a notification of potential liability and face a fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker.
Bosses also have a duty to check that employees are entitled to work in the United Kingdom.