UK government to identify 'unscrupulous asylum lawyers’

Home Office unit is focusing on 'abuse in the legal sector' and those who enable people to enter the UK illegally

Migrants are taken in to Dover, Kent, by the Border Force after being rescued from a small boat in the English Channel on July 20. PA
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A new taskforce to identify unscrupulous lawyers has been announced by the government after reports that false asylum claims are being submitted for a fee.

Regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and other government departments will be brought together by the Home Office unit to take action against advocates found to be deceiving the courts.

The Daily Mail reported that a number of solicitors agreed to help an undercover journalist posing as an economic migrant submit a false application in exchange for thousands of pounds.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority prohibits lawyers from deceiving courts, and any act of dishonesty or lack of integrity may result in them being struck off.

The Home Office said the Professional Enablers Taskforce had been carrying out preliminary work over the past few months.

This has included developing a new training package for front-line staff who work in immigration to help them identify and report suspicious activity, the department said.

Police referrals have also been made where criminal activity is suspected, the Home Office said.

Critics said the announcement of the task force, for which there is no new funding, should not deflect from asylum claim backlogs and “the unworkability of the Illegal Migration Act”.

“Crooked immigration lawyers must be rooted out and brought to justice," Home Secretary Suella Braverman said.

“While the majority of lawyers act with integrity, we know that some are lying to help illegal migrants game the system. It is not right or fair on those who play by the rules.

“The British people want us to put an end to illegal migration. I am determined to crack down on these immoral lawyers and stop the boats.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said: “The accuracy and honesty of legal advice underpins the integrity of our world-leading legal system, so those who undermine it by encouraging deception must be held to account.

“This government is committed to stopping the boats – that means breaking the business model of criminal gangs and holding to account unscrupulous lawyers who aid and abet them by abusing the legal system.”

Controversial migrant barge arrives in the UK - video

Controversial migrant barge arrives in the UK

Controversial migrant barge arrives in the UK

But Richard Atkinson, deputy vice president of the Law Society – which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said: “This ‘taskforce’ has been around for months now, so it is not clear what, if anything, the government is announcing today.

“The government, regulators and law-enforcement agencies already have the powers they need to deal with immigration advisers engaged in misconduct.

“The overwhelming majority of immigration lawyers continue to support the rule of law through their adherence to the law and professional standards set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and provide an essential service to clients.

“The focus of the Home Office on a tiny minority of lawyers to which they are apparently applying considerable resources should not deflect from the fact that there remains significant backlogs in asylum claims or the unworkability of the Illegal Migration Act.”

The government is starting a “stop the boats week” of linked announcements on its immigration agenda.

The first asylum seekers arrived at the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset on Monday, after delays amid opposition from local residents and the firefighters’ union, which suggested the vessel was a “potential deathtrap”.

The government hopes the use of the barge and former military bases to house asylum seekers will reduce the cost of hotel bills.

Meanwhile, Home Office figures released on Monday confirmed 50,546 asylum seekers were being housed in hotels as of June this year, up by about 25 per cent since December.

Labour accused ministers of “disastrous failure” over the latest statistics, which they called a direct consequence of “Tory mismanagement”.

Ms Braverman and Mr Chalk will on Tuesday attend a meeting to discuss its approach with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.

The Home Office said the task force is focusing on “abuse in the legal sector”, but that there are plans to expand to other “professional enablers” who may use their position to enable people to enter the UK without permission.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 11:01 PM