Braverman says lawyers who help migrants cheat system should be jailed

Suella Braverman says lawyers who help migrants cheat the system should be jailed

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Laywers who submit false asylum and human rights claims for illegal immigrants should face jail, Suella Braverman has said.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, the Home Secretary insists there needs to be a ‘hostile environment’ for ‘criminals and conmen’ who try to cheat the system, while also pointing to existing laws that allow life sentences for those who assist unlawful immigration. 

Her statement comes after a major undercover investigation by our sister paper, the Daily Mail, unmasked lawyers charging thousands of pounds to make false asylum claims.

Announcing a crackdown on the practice ahead of a series of Government initiatives dubbed ‘Stop the Boats’ week, Mrs Braverman said: ‘It’s very simple. They really need to be jailed.

‘We have the laws in place already which can be used whereby if you are facilitating a migrant illegally, you can be potentially jailed for life.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman pauses during a press conference in the capital Kigali, Rwanda

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent

‘And if the offence is warranted, then these people must be jailed for as long as possible. They need to know that they can’t get away with it. They need to know that this is totally unacceptable. ‘And we need to ensure that a blind eye isn’t turned to this kind of behaviour but, actually, that we have a hostile environment for those who seek to undermine and break our rules.’

The Immigration Act 1971 makes it an offence to intentionally facilitate a breach of immigration law.

Home Office and Ministry of Justice lawyers have advised that the Act can be used against lawyers charging thousands of pounds to fake asylum claims.

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The maximum sentence under Crown Prosecution Service guidelines is life. Decisions would be a matter for the service on a case-by-case basis.

Mrs Braverman said lawyers who tried to cheat the system deserved to feel the full force of the law.

‘These so-called immigration lawyers, who have been very powerfully exposed as being criminals and conmen, coaching migrants on how to lie to get through our system, how to game our system, how to play our rules, they are cheating the British people,’ she added. 

‘I worked as a barrister myself before I was an MP, defending the Home Office in immigration cases, and I know what we’re dealing with here in terms of the problem.

‘We’ve got a racket, we’ve got an industry of people who are purporting to be professional, purporting to be legitimate, but actually under the surface are lying or cheating and breaking the law, and we need to crack down on them.’

Mrs Braverman’s interview comes ahead of ‘Stop the Boats’ week, during which she will set out her plans to tackle illegal migration after nearly a year in the job. It follows a spell of bad weather that is likely to improve imminently, suggesting that there may be a big surge in arrivals as soon as the coming week.

Of course, many will be cynical about another trumpeted policy launch after six successive Tory home secretaries have blustered and failed. But Rishi Sunak has pledged to put a stop to the crisis before the next election, after record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel in dinghies last year.

Braverman during a visit to the City of London Police in Paternoster Square, London

Mrs Braverman pointed to the work she has already done to reduce the numbers, which are at present slightly down on the figures from 2022.

Last year, 45,755 migrants crossed the Channel, the highest number since figures were first collected in 2018. And June this year saw the highest number of arrivals on record, with more than 2,000 migrants crossing the Channel.

A persistent problem

Suella Braverman’s vow to stop illegal migrants is just the latest in a very long line of ‘crackdowns’ by Tory home secretaries, dating back to 2011 when Theresa May held a ‘crisis meeting’ with her French counterpart in Calais to discuss the problem.

Her successors, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, all tried but were confounded by the issue. From 2018 to 2022 alone, it was estimated about 135,000 people were detected trying to enter the UK illegally.

Previous Tory initiatives read like a catalogue of failure. Over recent years, they have included: promises of tougher action against people-traffickers, creating holding camps in Rwanda for asylum claimants, longer jail sentences for illegal migrants, quicker deportations, deals with Brussels to return illegals to mainland Europe, getting the French authorities to take back migrant boats, using the Navy, giving France millions to help, and telling internet giants to remove posts advertising illegal crossings.

All to little avail – an estimated 14,732 have arrived in the UK using the route so far this year.

‘It’s going to be a tough summer,’ the Home Secretary said. ‘I look closely at what the incoming flows are like, and we still have too many people coming across the Channel. We still need to honour our pledge to the British people to stop the boats.’

To tackle the issue, she pointed to the Government’s Illegal Migration Act which gives the Government new powers to detain and remove migrants and reduces the amount of appeal rights. Mrs Braverman also highlighted the scheme to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda, which the Supreme Court will rule on in the autumn following a protracted legal battle. While insisting that the Government is ‘confident’ in the legality of the plan, the Home Secretary said ‘all options were on the table’ should the court rule against it.

She also vowed that the backlog of asylum claims – which stood at 100,000 in December – would be cleared by the end of this year. And on the issue of accommodation, Mrs Braverman said that the first migrants would begin arriving at the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland this week following health and safety delays.

In addition, immigration enforcement to identify those who have overstayed visas and are working illegally has also increased, while an agreement with Albania meant that the number of migrants has fallen significantly and said the number of returns was increasing.

But she stopped short of vowing that she would stop the boats in time for the next election – one of Mr Sunak’s five pledges. ‘I want to stop the boats – it’s our promise and I know it’s absolutely critical,’ she said. ‘I know it’s what the British people really want us to do. They’re on our side.

‘I know that Labour do not want to stop the boats – that is absolutely clear. They have no plan. They’re on the side of the con men, of the criminals, and of the people smugglers – they’re not on the side of the British people.’ Government sources said that multiple prosecutions of solicitors under Section 25 of the 1971 Immigration Act had taken place in recent years. They said the Government was ‘reaffirming’ that the Act could be used against lawyers who submitted false asylum claims on behalf of their clients.

Braverman lauds our asylum sting

The Home Secretary has praised the Daily Mail’s ‘powerful’ investigation into lawyers who submit false asylum claims.

Our sister paper’s undercover team exposed firms that offered asylum seekers tutorials on how to lie and create fantasy back-stories.

In one instance, one lawyer brandished anti-depressants to demonstrate how to fake mental health problems in order to remain in the UK.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk said the allegations of ‘appalling’ conduct must be met with the ‘full force of sanctions’.

The Mail’s findings even triggered an outcry from Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the Liberal Democrats.

They prompted a swift investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which polices the professional conduct of lawyers. Within days, it had barred those exposed from further legal practice and closed down the law firms involved.

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