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Bar Council and Law Society warn that Prime Minister’s attacks on immigration lawyers are misleading and dangerous


Prime Minister says lawyers are 'effectively abetting the work of the criminal gangs'

Date of Publication:
14 June 2022

Bar Council and Law Society warn that Prime Minister’s attacks on immigration lawyers are misleading and dangerous

14 June 2022

The Bar Council and the Law Society of England and Wales issued a strongly-worded joint statement today after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said immigration lawyers were "effectively … abetting the work of the criminal gangs" by working for asylum-seeker clients facing removal to Rwanda.

Law Society logoSpeaking about today's controversial first flight to Rwanda under the new UK-Rwanda migration partnership, the Prime Minister said lawyers were undermining the Government's efforts to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose illegal and dangerous routes.

The Associated Press (AP) quoted the Prime Minister as saying: "I think that what the criminal gangs are doing, and what those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing, is undermining people's confidence in the safe and legal system, undermining people's general acceptance of immigration."

The Bar Council and the Law Society warned that such rhetoric against immigration lawyers by the Prime Minister was misleading and dangerous.

"Legal challenges ensure government is acting lawfully, following laws agreed by parliament. It is misleading and dangerous for the Prime Minister to suggest lawyers who bring such legal challenges are doing anything other than their job and upholding the law. Anyone at risk of a life-changing order has a right to challenge its legality with the assistance of a lawyer, who has a duty to advise their client on their rights," the bodies said in a joint statement.

The Bar Council and the Law Society called on the Prime Minister to stop attacking legal professionals for simply doing their jobs.

Law Society vice president Lubna Shuja said last week: "To be clear, what the Law Society is advocating for is a country where legal rights cannot be overridden without due process, where independent legal professionals serve the rule of law and keep the government accountable."

Following the latest refusal to stop the Rwanda flight in the courts today, the Supreme Court stated that immigration lawyers were "performing their proper function".

The statement came as the Supreme Court refused a last-minute appeal today following yesterday's refusal by the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court's decision to not grant an interim injunction stopping the removals to Rwanda.

Lord Reed stated in today's judgment: "The appellant is one of a number of claimants who applied to the High Court on 8th June for permission to bring an application for judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision that certain persons, including themselves, who have made claims for asylum in the United Kingdom should be removed to Rwanda so that their claims for asylum can be determined by the Rwandan authorities. In bringing that application, the appellant's lawyers were performing their proper function of ensuring that their clients are not subjected to unlawful treatment at the hands of the Government."

The first flight to Rwanda was due to leave the UK after 10pm tonight with a handful of asylum seekers onboard. However, in breaking news this evening, the European Court of Human Rights granted an urgent interim measure under Rule 39 to stop the removal of an Iraqi national. The Court decided the applicant should not be removed until the UK courts have delivered their final decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings on the lawfulness of the removals.

Further legal challenges followed and it was confirmed by news media late tonight that the flight was cancelled and will not depart.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said in response: "I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart. It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts. […] Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now."