POLICE and immigration officers raided premises in Newport last night in one of the biggest joint operations to catch illegal immigrants in Wales and the West.

The operation was aimed at targeting 32 people from the Polish community, to find out their immigration status.

Almost 100 immigration and police officers raided six addresses in the Maindee and town centre area.

The operation, which ran into the early hours of this morning, was the culmination of several months of painstaking inquiries by the immigration service. The investigation had revealed the 32 people targeted were all working in the hotel trade.

During the operation 33 men and women, aged between 21 and 54, were arrested on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.

They are now in the process of being interviewed by immigration officials. The operation, called Finches Two, was co-ordinated from Newport Central Police Station by a senior immigration officer.

Chief Inspector Carl Close, of Newport police, told the Argus: "This major operation was planned and undertaken by the immigration service with the support of Gwent Police. "It was a good example of two of the major law enforcement agencies working effectively together.

"While the enforcement of immigration legislation is the prime responsibility of the immigration service, Gwent Police, while recognising the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, is committed to playing its part in dealing with illegal immigrants."

Newport is currently home to about 130 legal asylum seekers. Earlier this week an Iraqi was arrested in Brynmawr after claiming he had travelled to Wales in the back of a van from Turkey for four days.

And last June residents near Tredegar were shocked when six men claiming to be Iraqi Kurds were arrested in a quiet village.

Three of the teenagers approached a man in Nantybwch asking for the police. Their case is now being investigated by immigration officials.