'Blatant' illegal immigrant job offers in Sussex and Kent

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Media captionDuring 10 hours of job hunting an undercover researcher was offered more than dozen jobs

An undercover investigation has found evidence of employers knowingly offering jobs to migrants without the right to work in the UK.

A BBC researcher posing as an immigrant spent 10 hours approaching businesses to ask for work in Kent and Sussex.

He was offered more than a dozen jobs, despite telling prospective bosses he had no right to work in the UK.

The Home Office said the government was making it easier to prosecute people who illegally employ immigrants.

The BBC South East Today investigation focused on Brighton, St Leonards, Gravesend, Dartford and Maidstone.

One business offered an hourly wage of £2.80, while others gave advice on avoiding immigration officials.

Of the premises where secret filming took place, one had already been fined over illegal employment.

Image caption Many of the job offers included payments that were below the minimum wage

In Brighton, the researcher was told: "If you work in one place full-time, immigration problem. It is not good for you. But if you work part-time that's safety for you."

And in St Leonards he was advised: "Anyone come in asking you working, you tell no one."

Fines of up to £20,000 can be issued for employing illegal workers.

Keith Vaz MP, who is the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "I'm astonished at the blatant way in which someone who has stated very clearly that they are not able to work, that they don't have the right to work, is being offered employment and also offered advice as to how to evade the authorities."

In 2014/15 the Home Office said it issued 1,974 civil penalties to businesses employing illegal workers

And between 2009 and 2014, 25 employers were convicted of knowingly employing an illegal worker, of which five received immediate custodial sentences.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Using illegal labour exploits workers, denies work to UK citizens and legal migrants and drives down wages.

"It must be stamped out, which is why we doubled the maximum civil penalty against employers who break the rules to £20,000 per illegal worker.

"The message is clear - we will continue to crack down on abuse and build an immigration system that works in the best interests of the British people and those who play by the rules."

Analysis: Illegal working

Image caption The undercover researcher said the UK is seen as a place to find an "easy job"

Colin Campbell, BBC South East Today's special correspondent

The government hopes its new Immigration Bill will assist in reducing "illegal working" in the UK.

Part of the Bill's aim is to increase the consequences for employing illegal migrants and strengthen the sanctions for working illegally.

Those caught working illegally in the UK could, under the new proposals, face six month jail terms. Employers caught repeatedly giving jobs to those not entitled, could also face prison and have their premises closed down for up to 48 hours.

The Immigration Bill is, however, likely to rely on civil penalties as the principal means of dealing with cases.

The BBC South East Today investigation can be seen on BBC One at 13:30 and 18:30 on 1 December 2015.

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