UK legal academics call for government to stop ‘attacking’ immigration lawyers News
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UK legal academics call for government to stop ‘attacking’ immigration lawyers

On Friday, various academic lawyers from across the UK and abroad signed an open letter to Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, accusing the government of “attacking” mostly immigration lawyers for advising and representing clients – especially those seeking asylum. Professor Helena Way, a migration law academic from the University of Exeter, orchestrated the letter, and over 100 legal academics signed it.

The open letter expressed solidarity with Ms. Jacqueline McKenzie and other immigration lawyers subject to “dossiers” and “public criticism” through negative media attention, which could lead to misogynistic and racist threats to McKenzie.

The Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA) researched the attacks towards immigration lawyers by questioning the legitimacy of its work, which started in mid-2020 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then Home Secretary Priti Patel made comments calling lawyers “left activists” who frustrated the government’s efforts to deport people and defended the “indefensible” immigration appeals system. Johnson suggested that lawyers challenging the government’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda were permitting the work of “criminal gangs,” and the lawyers received threats through the Bar Council because of this. More recently, current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used the malpractice of three legal advisers (whose firms were shut down) to wildly attack migration lawyers by calling them “criminal gangs,” fuelling exploitation of the UK migration system.

In the open letter, the ILPA and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reinforced that if there is any malpractice from migration lawyers, the appropriate external bodies will deal with it accordingly, and the media or members of the government should not target individuals or condoning generalised attacks on the profession.