The Home Office has been accused of “painting lawyers as villains”, after posting a controversial video on social media that has renewed a row over migrants crossing the Channel.
Another group of migrants arrived in Dover on Thursday morning, after crossings were prevented by the high winds of Storm Francis for the past week or so. The arrivals were taken ashore by Border Force speedboats.
Meanwhile the Home Office lashed out at “activist lawyers” – which it says are hindering efforts to deport migrants.
An incendiary video posted on its official Twitter account on Wednesday evening showed a graphic of deportation planes leaving the UK, prompting outraged legal commentators to brand it “scandalous” and compare it to something out of Dad’s Army.
‘Undermine the rule of law’
Condemning the video, Simon Davis – president of the Law Society – 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.”
The video, which was viewed more than 630,000 times in less than 24 hours but has since been deleted, said: “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.”
It sparked an instant backlash from lawyers and politicians alike. Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal tweeted: “‘Activist lawyers’ ensure that humans have rights. They ensure OUR laws are followed. This is scandalous.”
Labour MP Stella Creasey said: “The UK Government attacking ‘activist lawyers’, dehumanising people fleeing persecution and boasting about deportations as if that will stop the traffickers – Trump isn’t their inspiration, this IS Trump.”
Barrister Richard Booth QC tweeted: “This is utterly disgraceful from the Home Office, painting lawyers as villains. A very slippery and dangerous slope.”
More than 5,000 people have made the treacherous trip across the Channel so far this year.
Last week it was announced that any migrant children arriving on small boats without family will be left with Border Force after Kent County Council announced it had reached capacity.
Instead, any unaccompanied child asylum seekers will stay in the agency’s Kent Intake Unit at Dover until a place can be found with another local authority.
The Home Office describes the facility as a “processing centre”, but charities have raised concerns.
Lawyers acting for Detention Action have written to the Home Secretary, describing the move as an “alarming development”.
In the letter, lawyers Duncan Lewis said: “Detention Action therefore has significant difficulties identifying what lawful power that you have for holding the children at the Kent Intake Unit.”