The Home Office has been accused of an “assault on the rule of law” over its comments about “activist lawyers” who are representing refugees.
Home secretary Priti Patel’s department has faced fierce criticism from legal figures over a video posted to its Twitter account about its efforts to remove refugees from the UK.
The clip, which has been viewed nearly a million times in less than 24 hours, says that current regulations are “allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns”.
The comments have been criticised by various legal figures including immigration lawyers Duncan Lewis, who described them as “alarming”.
More refugees were seen arriving in Dover on 27 August, wearing blankets and life jackets.
A number of boats are believed to have crossed the English Channel after many days of bad weather brought by Storm Francis.
Twelve people were returned to continental Europe on a flight from the UK on 26 August, the Home Office confirmed.
A video posted to its Twitter account on 26 August showed a moving graphic of planes leaving the UK.
It says: “We are working to remove migrants with no right to remain in the UK.
“But currently return regulations are rigid and open to abuse…
“Allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns.”
Toufique Hossain, the director of public law at Duncan Lewis, described the comments made by the Home Office as “alarming”.
He told the PA news agency: “Yet another attack on lawyers who are simply doing their best, under exceptionally difficult circumstances, to assist deeply vulnerable clients.
“This isn’t an attack on activism, it is an assault on the rule of law and people’s constitutional right to access justice.
“The government can keep saying what they are saying, but we’ll continue to do what we are doing.”
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “Attacks on the integrity of the legal profession undermine the rule of law.
“To describe lawyers who are upholding the law as ‘activist lawyers’ is misleading and dangerous.
“We should be proud that we live in a country where legal rights cannot be overridden without due process, and we should be proud that we have legal professionals who serve the rule of law.”
A spokesman for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland declined to comment on the row.
Barrister Richard Booth QC tweeted: “This is utterly disgraceful from the Home Office, painting lawyers as villains.”
Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, said: “These Conservative attacks on people seeking asylum – and the lawyers who help them make their claims – must stop.
“The UK has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need, but this Conservative government is turning its back on refugees and failing to treat people with dignity.
“Far too many people are wrongly denied asylum, with half of refusals overturned on appeal.
“Given the Home Office’s appalling record, it is essential that asylum seekers have the chance to argue for their rights in court, with proper legal representation.”
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