POLICE and immigration officers swooped on a Worcester kebab shop in a huge operation to tackle illegal workers.

Four men were arrested in Worcester Kebab House in Shaw Street at around 4pm yesterday suspected of working illegally, while a further 39 arrests were made in Bristol, Oxford and Llanelli in an operation involving 180 officers. It followed a joint investigation by Avon and Somerset Constabulary and the Immigration Service and formed part of Operation Reflex - a Home Office initiative to co-ordinate operations against organised immigration crime.

An undisclosed address in Evesham was also targeted, but resulted in no arrests.

Det Ch Insp Kevin Hazell, who co-ordinated the operation, said its purpose was to gather evidence and prosecute offenders for people smuggling.


"Those who are smuggled are usually complicit," he said.

"However, the smuggler will often exploit those who are smuggled into the UK, due to their vulnerability.

"It is common practice for illegal working to be connected to this activity, often involving working long hours, in poor conditions and for little reward."

This activity could undermine local economies and cause legitimate, law-abiding companies to go out of business, with those who have a right to work denied job opportunities, he added.

Since April 2003, Operation Reflex has smashed 30 criminal gangs and 28 people have been convicted.

Those arrested yesterday are now being questioned.