UK: ‘Activist Lawyers’ Block Deportation of Every Single Migrant on Planned Removal Flight

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Lawyers have successfully frustrated the government’s efforts to deport every single illegal migrant on a planned return flight to Spain.

Dozens, sometimes hundreds of illegal migrants have been crossing the English Channel from France in small boats in recent months, with none being turned back by the Border Force, very few being turned back by the French authorities, and only a small minority being deported at a later date.

This is in spite of the fact that virtually all of them have no legal right to asylum in Britain, as they are arriving in the country from a safe, first world EU member-state, and have usually passed through multiple safe countries prior to that as well.

Priti Patel’s Home Office — the British government department responsible for border control, policing, and national security — had blamed this state of affairs on the work of “activist lawyers” taking advantage of “regulations [which] are rigid and open to abuse” to “delay and disrupt returns” — an accusation buttressed by new revelations that lawyers have managed to spring every single migrant from a planned return flight to Spain.

“[T]here was 100 per cent legal attrition rate on the flight due to unprecedented and organised casework barriers sprung on the government by three law firms,” an anonymous Whitehall source told The Sun, naming Duncan Lewis, John Street, and Milestone Solicitors as the firms which had managed to “bog the process down in legal quagmire” on behalf of the 23 migrants.

“The Government’s efforts to facilitate entirely legitimate and legal returns of people who have entered the UK through illegal routes are too often frustrated by last-minute challenges submitted hours before a scheduled flight,” a Home Office spokesman confirmed in an official statement.

“These claims are very often baseless and entirely without merit, but are given full legal consideration, leading to removal being rescheduled. This can effectively result in the timing out of a return due to stringent Dublin Regulations,” they added, referring to the EU asylum rules Britain is still obliged to follow while the post-Brexit “transition” period is ongoing.

Migration sceptics have become increasingly frustrated with the Conservative government’s complaints about its supposed inability to get on top of illegal immigration in general and the Channel crisis in particular, however, given the issues they describe have existed since the came to office under David Cameron all the way back in 2010.

Even in the case of boat crossings, which have only become the most-reported means by which migrants enter Britain illegally relatively recently, Priti Patel’s predecessor Sajid Javid declared them a “major incident” in December 2018 — to absolutely no effect, given they have continued to increase to now unprecedented numbers.

The notionally right-wing party may have had some excuse for failing to act when they were forced to govern alongside the Liberal Democrats, or when David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson had only slim parliamentary majorities or minority administrations — but this has not been the case since December 2019, when Johnson won a very substantial 80-seat majority.

While there may be some merit to the arguments that lawyers are abusing the legal system, whether for activist purposes or simply to rake in more money, and that judges are offering somewhat dubious interpretations of the law in order to prevent deportations — for example, a Scottish judge recently stirred controversy by blocking the deportation of a Taliban fighter who had already lost six appeals because his PTSD care in Afghanistan would be inferior to his free treatment in the United Kingdom — the Prime Minister could make use of his parliamentary majority to change the law at any time.

However, by saying that “Soon we will no longer be bound by EU laws and can negotiate our own return arrangements” in its “activist lawyers” tweet, the Home Office appeared to suggest it has no intention of pushing for any legislative action until at least 2021, while the Channel crisis continues to intensify.

Even in 2021, the government may continue to be bound by a myriad of British and European human rights law — Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights was not terminated by Brexit, as it is technically not an EU institution — and by an anti-borders interpretation of international maritime law.

Despite the fact the latter is non-binding, it has been used to justify the failure of UK Border Force to turn back illegal migrants intercepted at sea, with the government claiming it is required to simply pick them up and bring them the rest of the way to Britain — even though Australia has turned migrant boats around with great success for years now.

Some indication of the government’s apparent lack of will on these issues is given by the fact that the “activist lawyers” tweet has now been deleted, following outcry from lawyers’ lobbies suggesting that criticism of their profession or of judicial decisions amounts to an attack on the rule of law.

Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office’s Permanent Secretary, declared that the “activist lawyers” phrase “should not have been used on an official government channel”, adding that he had “made clear to the team this post should not be used again from Home Office accounts or anywhere else by civil servants.”

A source speaking to The Times apparently said that Patel, Rycroft’s democratically-elected boss, at least in theory, “was familiar with the language used and did not think that it was wrong” — but went no further than that, which perhaps suggests either she or the Prime Minister do not have the stomach for a direct confrontation with the permanent bureaucracy or the legal profession.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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