TWO men left Templars Square shopping centre in handcuffs yesterday after immigration officers questioned their right to work in this country.

The men were working at a mobile phone stall in the shopping centre when they were approached by undercover officers at lunchtime.

Unbeknown to the suspects, the sting had begun an hour previously at Cowley Police Station (the HQ for response and neighbourhood police teams), where our reporter Fran Way join them to find out what police do. 

Read more: A day in the life of a Thames Valley Police officer

Immigration officers were dressed down ‘undercover’ in jeans, hoodies and bullet proof vests and had summoned a briefing with police – who were called from neighbourhood teams to assist the immigration squad with their plans.

Their job was to guard the exits – in a bid to stop any suspects making a dash through the doors.

How do they know who the suspects are? ‘They will run,’ officers explained.

With plans in place, the huddle in the HQ dispersed into vans and cars, driving in convoy for the five-minute journey down back roads towards Templars Square.

Immigration checks are a lengthy process, involving waiting and questioning the suspect and getting documentation which proves they have the rights to work in the UK.

Read again: 70 per cent of crime in Oxford closed with 'no further action'

“But it’s important,” the police sergeant guarding an exit explained. “With the right to work comes protection and other human rights.”

At the shopping centre, two men were arrested and taken to Abingdon – Oxford’s only custody suite.

Employers who hire an illegal worker can face a five year jail term, and be given an unlimited fine.

For a prosecution to go ahead, it must be proved that an employer had reasonable cause to believe that the person did not have the right to work here, for example that their papers are fake. 

A successful immigration raid is not an unusual occurrence.

The special officers, who don’t have the same powers as police but can arrest somebody specifically for illegal-work related offences, reeled off a list of other locations they regularly visit in Thames Valley – Reading, Slough, Milton Keynes.

They explained the list feels never ending, before confirming hopes to tick off at least three other raids in Oxford before the end of the day.

The neighbourhood teams who were assisting helped with two out of the three raids before their shift finished at 4pm.

One, at an ice-cream shop, which was given the green-light and all clear. The other was at Fred’s Discount Store, where one man was arrested.


Fred's Discount Store in Cowley

During a raid, the officers can be seen searching around the shop, spotted looking for doors and hunting for others who might be hiding.

But they keep the whole affair relatively low-key – so much so that customers were still going in and out of the shops and having a browse.