UK’s Suella Braverman clamps down on ‘crooked’ immigration lawyers
London: The UK government on Tuesday announced the creation of a new taskforce and tougher sentences for “crooked” immigration lawyers who coach illegal migrants to lie to gain residency rights in the country.
Following a recent undercover report exposing such legal firms, since closed down by watchdog Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), the government pointed out that a small minority of lawyers have been helping illegal migrants stay in the UK by encouraging them to make false claims.
The new Professional Enablers Taskforce will bring together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system.
“Crooked immigration lawyers must be rooted out and brought to justice. 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,” said UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who herself is a qualified barrister.
“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’,” she said.
Lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means could be prosecuted under the UK’s Immigration Act 1971, Section 25, for “Assisting unlawful immigration to the UK” and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The taskforce has already been carrying out preliminary work ahead of its official launch this week. The UK Ministry of Justice said law enforcement are working with the taskforce to bring fresh prosecutions against corrupt immigration lawyers who could face up to life in prison for assisting illegal migrants to remain in the country by deception.
Braverman also chaired a roundtable meeting with UK Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, SRA and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner to reiterate the government’s drive to bring prosecutions against crooked immigration lawyers.
“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,” said Chalk.
“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,” he said.
The new taskforce has also developed a new training package for frontline staff who work in the immigration system to help them identify and report suspect activity by immigration lawyers.
“Working with industry bodies, the taskforce will disrupt the business models of firms that are enabling abuse of the immigration system. Their work is aimed at supporting enforcement action against corrupt lawyers by building stronger evidence and improving intelligence sharing, which is then passed on to industry bodies to investigate and bring to law enforcement for prosecution if necessary,” the Ministry of Justice said.
It revealed that the taskforce has already uncovered a case in which an immigration firm is linked to one of the most wanted human traffickers, which has now been referred to the police.