UK Government sets up task force to prosecute rogue immigration lawyers
The UK government on Tuesday announced that it has set up a special task force to increase enforcement action against unscrupulous immigration lawyers who coach illegal migrants to lie in order to win asylum in the country. The move comes after a Daily Mail investigation revealed how a few lawyers have been helping illegal migrants by asking them to make false claims, which include claims of sexual torture, beatings, slave labour, false imprisonment and death threats. “We are stepping up action to support regulatory action and prosecution of unscrupulous lawyers, with a new dedicated task force and tougher sentences,” the Home Office said in a statement.
The Professional Enablers Task Force is bringing together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system. The task force has been up and carrying out preliminary work over the past few months, working with partners to tackle immigration abuse in the legal sector by improving how intelligence and information are shared by regulators. In addition, law enforcement is also working 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.
“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,” Home Secretary Suella Braverman said. “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 added. The task force has also developed a new training package for frontline staff who work in the immigration system to help them identify and report suspect activity so they can support law enforcement to prosecute crooked immigration lawyers, the Home Office said.
Working with industry bodies, the task force 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. Referrals to law enforcement have also been made where criminal activity is suspected. For example, the task force has 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.
Last week, the Solicitors Regulation Authority — a legal industry watchdog — suspended three legal firms who were caught offering to submit fake asylum claims for migrants. The Professional Enablers Task Force is currently focusing on abuse in the legal sector, however there are plans to expand to other ‘professional enablers’, such as doctors, accountants and employers, who use their expertise to facilitate illegal migration. Lawyers found to be coaching migrants on how to remain in the country by fraudulent means could be prosecuted under the Immigration Act 1971, Section 25, for ‘Assisting unlawful immigration to the UK’ and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment.