A POPULAR Indian restaurant where staff ­— including one who was working illegally ­— were found 'living in squalor' is fighting for survival after the Home Office called for its licence to be revoked.

India Gate in Westhoughton was raided by immigration officers and the local authority following a tip off a number of foreign national males were working illegally.

The Bolton News:

(India Gate)

Two men were arrested for working in breach of their visa conditions and overstaying their visa.

The local authority discovered evidence of at least five people living in unsafe conditions in upstairs bedrooms ­— ­which had inadequate fire safety measures, were in disrepair and bedrooms padlocked from the outside.

Among those living there was one of the men arrested for immigration offences.

The restaurant was issued a £10,000 fine because the detained men had no permission to work in the UK.

Owner and director Heron Ali and business partner, company secretary Nazmul Hussain, their company Chan Restaurant Ltd were hauled before court for having illegal accommodation.

Fines issued at the hearing amounted to more than £10,000.

The Bolton News:

(Living conditions upstairs at India Gate)

Yesterday, Bolton Council's licensing committee met to consider the Home Office application, which the restaurant is fighting.

Mr Ireland, representing Mr Ali from the restaurant, said: "We are accepting there is wrong doing, we don’t seek to argue at any point during our defence that there hasn’t been, what our issue with is about the proportionality of the net effect, the result. My client has had these fines, he has not employed a solicitor to fight them .

“He has said 'I have done something wrong, I haven’t appreciated how serious that was and I now understand that'. He has struggled to pay these fines but he has paid them because he is accepting the penalty for what he has done.

"But he has to fight this because if the licence goes away he loses the business, the whole thing is over.

“He is saying that is going too far both for him and indeed his staff who lose their jobs, and that is what we argue with rather than having done something wrong in the first place."

And the representative criticised the Home Office for the length of time the case has taken since the raid in December 2018. The hearing was told relevant checks are now being carried out 

Mr Ireland said: "The Home Office have unnecessarily protracted the matter, and it has been hanging over my client for the nearly two years and prolonging the agony.

“It feels like they are not appreciating the gravity of their actions on the person on the other side, it is like they don’t see that everything here is at stake, it is a really relaxed approach.”

The Bolton News:

(Living conditions upstairs at India Gate)

Mr Johns, representing the Home Office, said: "Mr Ali mentioned he had turned a blind eye, he’s admitted his wrong doing and that he has made that conscious decision to employ the illegal workers, not only that but the wider concern of housing in squalid conditions which is unacceptable."

The licensing committee said it would issue its decision in the coming days.