In Brief

Burger chain Byron's immigration sting backlash

Protesters release swarm of cockroaches at London restaurants in protest against deportations

141216-byron-burger.jpg

Two London branches of the burger chain Byron were forced to close at the weekend after campaigners released hundreds of live insects in protest at the company's involvement in an immigration sting targeting its own workers.

What are they protesting about?

Late last month, immigration officers rounded up 35 people from Albania, Brazil, Egypt and Nepal who worked for Byron's. The staff had reportedly been told to come for a health and safety meeting but were met by immigration officials instead.

Byron confirmed it had cooperated with the Home Office after saying it had been shown "false/counterfeit documentation" by those at the centre of the alleged immigration breaches.

What has happened since?

Byron's role in facilitating the round-up led campaigners to organise a boycott of the chain.

On Friday evening, activists from London Black Revs and the Malcolm X Movement released cockroaches and locusts into Byron's Shaftesbury Avenue and Holborn restaurants and protesters have picketed other locations across the capital.

The organisations said the action was a response to the chain's "despicable actions in the past weeks, having entrapped waiters, back of house staff and chefs in collaboration with UK Border Agency".

How has Byron responded?

"The safety of our customers and restaurant teams is paramount," a spokeswomen said, adding the company will work with police to "minimise the risk of further incident".

Byron burger chain staff arrested by immigration officials

28 July

A decision by the Byron burger chain to help authorities flush out people working illegally at its restaurants has prompted a social media backlash.

Thirty-five workers were arrested at outlets across London this month. The Home Office confirmed they had been held on suspicion of breaches of the immigration laws, stating that the operation had been carried out with Byron’s "full cooperation".

The chain also said it had “cooperated fully and acted upon the Home Office’s requests”, although it has refused to respond to claims that it faked meetings in order to gather the staff in one site.

London-based Spanish language newspaper El Iberica claimed workers had been duped into attending a training session and were then asked to go into a separate room where immigration officials were waiting.

News of the 4 July raid caused outrage on social media. "Some of the deported workers had worked for Byron for four years. Byron were happy to use them all that time and then discard them and ruin lives overnight," says Facebook page Shame on Byron, which is organising a protest in London for 1 August.

The hashtag #boytcottbyron also started trending on Twitter.

The Sun described the operation as an “immigration sting” in which workers were called in for a morning “training event” then swooped on by officials "carrying lists of names and photos of those under watch".

Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green Party, told Buzzfeed: “If these accusations are true, then the bosses at Byron should be utterly ashamed of themselves.”

However, others argued the chain had done nothing wrong and that it was the workers who had been at fault for allegedly presenting false documentation to secure employment.

Byron, which runs 65 restaurants across the UK, has become “a beacon for young foodies increasingly shunning McDonald’s and Burger King for boutique burger bars,” says the Daily Mail. In 2013 former chancellor George Osborne was criticised for tweeting a picture of himself eating a “gourmet" Byron burger when he could have bought a cheaper burger at McDonald’s.

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