Investigations have revealed that one of Britain's largest retail outlets has been employing foreign students illegally.
UK immigration authorities swooped on Tesco's online operations last month, according to reports uncovered by the Telegraph, and found a number of students working significantly longer hours than their UK visas allowed.
Based in Croydon, south London, the Tesco.com business is run out of a large warehouse. Investigations revealed that around 20 students were arrested at the location for alleged breaches of UK visa conditions.
The majority were confirmed to be of Bangladeshi or Indian origin and had been working up to three and a half times longer than their visas allowed, with some clocking up to 70 hours a week during term time when their visa only allowed for 20. None of the students have been identified, but it is understood that at least seven have since been deported.
Tesco has been issued with a notification of potential liability and could be hit with a notification of liability and a fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker, leaving the supermarket giant with potential fines of around £200,000 for the case in question.
To avoid these fines, it will need to provide evidence that legally required checks were carried out before the workers were employed.
It is unclear whether or not Tesco has been able to supply this evidence but it has told the paper that it is “co-operating fully” with the UKBA investigations and noted that since the arrests it has tightened its procedures in order to tackle illegal working practices.
A UKBA spokesperson commented: “We received information that some staff members were working in the UK illegally at Tesco.com on Factory Lane, Croydon.
“In response officers carried out an operation in full co-operation with the company shortly after 3am on Saturday 21 July 2012. 20 individuals have been arrested and now face removal from the UK.”