Watchdog for solicitors probes firms for alleged false asylum claims
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority monitors more than 200,000 solicitors in England and Wales
Portland residents stage a small protest outside the port entrance as the Bibby Stockholm migrant barge arrives at Portland Harbour on July 18, 2023 in Portland, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
THE UK’s watchdog for solicitors said on Thursday (27) that it is investigating legal firms and individuals suspected of breaching rules in advising clients on making false asylum claims.
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) said it is looking to take “urgent action” after UK justice secretary Alex Chalk wrote to its chair in the wake of an undercover investigation by The Daily Mail newspaper earlier this week.
The sting operation report included claims that illegal migrants from Punjab are being allegedly advised by some lawyers in the UK to fake persecution over their support for Khalistani groups to apply for asylum in the country.
It even prompted prime minister Rishi Sunak to take to Twitter to condemn the actions of the solicitors caught up in the sting.
“This is what we’re up against. The Labour party, a subset of lawyers, criminal gangs – they’re all on the same side, propping up a system of exploitation that profits from getting people to the UK illegally. I have a plan to stop it,” Sunak tweeted.
His cabinet minister in the ministry of justice, Alex Chalk, followed this up with a letter demanding that the SRA use the “full force of sanctions” at its disposal against solicitors found to be abusing the country’s immigration system.
“It is vital that we show the public – and the majority of honest and professional solicitors – that this kind of abuse of the system will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly,” wrote Chalk in his letter dated July 26.
The SRA, which monitors more than 200,000 solicitors in England and Wales, is in charge of ensuring that they comply with rules and also has the power to close down firms.
“We can confirm we are investigating the firms/individuals. As a result of the information provided, we are looking to take urgent action to make sure the public are protected,” said a spokesperson.
“All solicitors should uphold the high professional standards that we and the public expect of them. This is especially important in areas such as immigration where those involved may be among the most vulnerable in society. If we find evidence that solicitors or firms we regulate have acted in ways that contravene our rules, and in particular their duty to act legally and uphold the law, we can and will take action.”
Indian diaspora group Insight UK urged the home office and home secretary Suella Braverman to review all asylum applications claiming persecution on the grounds of supporting Khalistani or independent Kashmir causes.
“In light of the massive asylum fraud exposed by Daily Mail, where illegal immigrants are being tutored by lawyers to lie about persecution by the Indian government to claim asylum, we request Braverman and UK home office to investigate and review all asylum application claiming persecution for supporting Khalistan or Azad Kashmir,” it said.