Two local hair and beauty businesses could be facing thousands of pounds in fines after a sweep by immigration officers ended in five people being arrested.
Four Vietnamese men and a Nepalese woman were picked up for immigration offences at nail bars in the Lothians during searches for illegal immigrants and victims of human trafficking.
The employers could be hit by fines of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker arrested, unless they can demonstrate that proper checks were carried out on passports and other documents proving a foreigner’s right to work in the UK.
The 22-year-old Nepalese woman and a 42-year-old Vietnamese man were picked up at USA Nailz on Clerk Street, while three other men from Vietnam aged 20, 30 and 39 were found working at Top Cuts, a Turkish barber shop and beauty salon based in the Almondvale shopping centre in Livingston.
The eldest man has also been referred to police as part of ongoing criminal investigations. The others were released and ordered to report to the Home Office while their cases are being dealt with.
Tommy Bui, owner of the USA Nailz salon in Newington for the past two years, said his Nepalese employee’s visa had expired in May.
It was not possible to contact Livingston-based Top Cuts.
There are currently no licensing regulations for nail bars. As well as the premises in Edinburgh and Livingston, officers searched salons in Glasgow, Ayr, Paisley, Greenock, Strathaven, Wishaw, Clydebank, Cumbernauld and Hamilton in a series of raids that had been in the planning for more than two months.
A total of 26 foreign nationals were arrested across the country for a variety of immigration offences during the raids on Friday, which have been dubbed Operation Platform.
The swoop also involved Police Scotland, Home Office Immigration Enforcement, HM Revenue and Customs, the National Crime Agency, the human trafficking branch of Trading Standards, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Power.
“Illegal workers have no place in the United Kingdom and through our combined work with the police we are committed to rooting out and removing the people who simply should not be here,” said UK immigration minister James Brokenshire.
“Illegal working is not victimless. It undercuts employers who ply an honest trade and robs legitimate job-seekers of opportunities to work.
“It can also exploit some of society’s most vulnerable.”