Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 12:01 UK

Farmer 'checked illegal workers'

Farm raid
A dozen suspected illegal workers were arrested following the raid

A farm owner from Devon who is facing a fine of up to £120,000 for employing illegal workers says he had taken precautions to check their credentials.

Twelve workers were arrested by Border Agency officials after a raid on 1 July at Merrifield Farm in Crediton.

Three Namibians and two Afghans caught working there are due to be deported over the next week.

Steps are being taken to deport the seven others as quickly as possible, said an agency spokesman.

Farm owner Peter Coleman may now face a fine of up to £10,000 for every illegal worker.

We are not experts in forgery
Farm owner Peter Coleman

He told BBC News: "We do our best to comply with regulations.

"We have a very good database of all employees and we have a list of passports and proof of identity.

"But the biggest problem for employers is to prove the identity of the person.

"We are not experts in forgery."

Proof required

He said he had problems finding British people to work on the farm which processes chickens and ducks.

He said: "We approached the Job Centre.

"We offered employment to 58 out of the 59 people that applied, 55 of which were British.

"Four were unsuitable and asked to leave and five are still with us.

"The other 46 found the job not to their liking and left or did not turn up in the first place."

A Borders Agency spokesman said the fine would depend on how many checks Mr Coleman had made.

"It is between him and our civil penalties unit now," he said.

Officials were working to send all the illegal workers back to their country of origin.

He said: "They are currently on immigration bail and must report to a local police station on a weekly basis."

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Farm raid nets 12 suspect workers
01 Jul 09 |  Devon

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