SEVERAL illegal workers have been found in Bega and Merimbula and now await deportation from Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, Sydney.
Following a tip off from the community, last week Department of Immigration and Border Protection officers swooped on the Delicious Noodle House eateries in Bega and Merimbula, where the illegal workers were discovered.
In Merimbula a Malaysian man and a Chinese man classed as “unlawful non-citizens with no valid visas” were discovered.
In Bega a Chinese man and a Chinese woman were apprehended.
The woman held a student visa with work rights, but had her visa cancelled on Monday when she was found to not be attending her approved course of study.
The Chinese man had no valid visas for working or residency.
The two restaurants are owned by the same man, Xun Wen Xu, who admitted to Fairfax Media that he “didn’t check properly” the credentials of his workers.
“I normally check their passports, but sometimes they don’t like me to check their passport. Sometimes they only hand in driving licences,” Mr Xu said.
Mr Xu said that the workers all had food safety certificates and he had been “surprised” to discover they were illegal workers.
The raids in Merimbula and Bega were part of a wider immigration compliance operation along the South Coast, which netted a total of 12 illegal workers.
In addition to the four illegal workers in Merimbula and Bega, illegal workers were located in Nowra (a Malaysian woman), Moruya (a Malaysian man and a Chinese man), Narooma (a Malaysian man), Ulladulla (two Malaysian men) and Warilla (a Taiwanese woman and a Malaysian woman).
Ten people were unlawful non-citizens with no valid visas; one Chinese woman from Bega held a student visa and a Malaysian man found in Narooma was on a current tourist visa with no work rights, which was also cancelled.
All of the workers were taken to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and will be deported.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said the circumstances of the illegal workers employment was being investigated, as it was believed that some of the businesses were owned by the same operator.
Mr Xu said he owned the Merimbula and Bega restaurants, but that he had closed the Moruya Delicious Noodle House and had sold the Narooma Delicious Noodle House.
While Mr Xu didn’t know whether he would be fined, the penalties can be severe.
Employers can be fined from $3060 to $76,500 per illegal worker, and there can be fines of up to $20,400 plus two years imprisonment for a business convicted of “knowingly or recklessly allowing or referring an illegal worker to work”.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection told Fairfax Media the compliance operation conducted in Merimbula and Bega last week “was the result of a combination of information provided from the community to the department’s Dob-In Line, as well as information from other sources”.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection has a free online service for employers to check the visa details of non-citizens, which Mr Xu said he would use.
“I’m definitely going to change the process and check everyone in future,” he said.
People with information about illegal workers, visa over-stayers or businesses that hire illegal workers can call the Immigration Dob-in Line on 1800 009 623.