Solicitors regulator launches investigation of asylum claim law firms
The solicitors regulator in England and Wales has confirmed it is investigating law firms accused of helping clients make false asylum claims.
It comes after a Daily Mail reporter, posing as an economic migrant, asked law firms for help applying for asylum. Two companies allegedly agreed to help devise fictional backstories aimed at increasing the success of a claim. Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has urged the regulator to use the “full force of sanctions” at its disposal.
Writing to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Mr Chalk said: “Solicitors are critical to the operation of a fair immigration system. I know that the overwhelming majority take their professional duties and obligations extremely seriously.
“However, any examples of practices which fall short of the high ethical standards we expect of solicitors risk serious disruption to the immigration system, tarnishing the reputation of those working in this area, and critically undermining public confidence.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak echoed his minister’s sentiments saying: “It is vital that those found to be abusing their position face the full consequences of their actions.”
A spokesperson for the regulator said: “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.
“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.”
Last November, the regulator carried out a review of the immigration and asylum sector which concluded it was generally “satisfied with the quality of service being provided”.
Following the review it issued new guidance on immigration work and committed to producing a further report in 12 to 18 months. Mr Chalk said the follow-up review should be carried out “as soon as possible”.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority monitors more than 200,000 solicitors in England and Wales. As part of its work it monitors solicitors to ensure they are complying with the rules and investigates concerns. It also has the power to close down firms.