• Protestors demonstrate outside a Byron restaurant in London. (Twitter)Source: Twitter
The Byron burger restaurants are facing a public backlash following claims they cooperated in an immigration sting on their workers.
Alyssa Braithwaite

2 Aug 2016 - 1:18 PM  UPDATED 2 Aug 2016 - 1:18 PM

Protesters have unleashed hundreds of live insects into two restaurants of a popular burger chain in the UK after dozens of its migrant workers were arrested in an immigration raid.

Two London branches of the Byron Hamburger chain were forced to close when activist groups London Black Revs and Malcolm X Movement released a swarm of cockroaches, locusts and crickets inside in retaliation against an immigration sting in July, the BBC reports. 

Other protesters have picketed the restaurants, while #boycottbyron has been doing the rounds on Twitter.

There has been a public backlash against the gourmet burger chain after immigration officers rounded up 35 employees from Albania, Brazil, Egypt and Nepal who were told to attend a health and safety meeting.

One worker said they were summoned to a meeting about the dangers of medium and medium-rare cooking of burgers.

"This was strange because we already had this training," the worker, who has been deported, told the Guardian.

One of the kitchen staff said she arrived for the morning meeting but within minutes four immigration officers arrived and started calling out names and took people aside for questioning.

London-based Spanish language newspaper El Iberico reported that more than 150 staff were "in hiding" after the raids, which a number of employees claim had been set up as a "trap". 

In a statement on its website, the company said : "Byron was unaware that any of our workers were in possession of counterfeit documentation until the Home Office brought it to our attention. The Home Office recognises that Byron as an employer has always been fully compliant with immigration and asylum law in its employment practices. We carry out rigorous ‘right to work’ checks, but sophisticated counterfeit documentation was used in order to pass these checks. We have cooperated fully and acted upon the Home Office’s requests and processes throughout the course of their investigations: it is our legal obligation to do so."

The UK Home Office confirmed that 35 people had been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences and the operation on July 4 had taken place with Byron's "full cooperation". 

Some Twitter users have praised the company for acting within the law.

But many have expressed their outrage at what they believe is poor treatment of their staff.

On Monday, Byron asked the organisers of the protests to respect the safety of their customers.

“The safety of our customers and restaurant teams is paramount, and we would ask protesters to respect their safety this evening," a Byron spokeswoman told the Guardian.

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