Three law firms recently exposed for offering illegal migrants help with false asylum applications have been swiftly shut down by the solicitors’ watchdog just days after the revelations came to light in an undercover press sting operation.
Anna Bradley, chairman of the Solicitors Regulation Authority board said she had been “shocked” by the behaviour identified..
She said the regulator had taken “urgent action”, including suspending solicitors working at three of the firms and closing the companies altogether.
Another non-regulated individual working at one of the firms has also had an order made against him, stopping him “working with or for” any SRA regulated firm.
Ms Bradley has also launched an “urgent on-site inspection” of two of the firms, to “gather further evidence”, as well as a “wider inspection of the immigration sector”.
She added: “This will commence in the next few weeks and will include a cross section of firms working in the asylum sector and take into account the issues raised by the Daily Mail investigation”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman praised the news and swift move by the regulator.
She said: “Immigration lawyers who cheat and lie are taking the British public for a ride.
“Good to see this quick action by the SRA after the Mail Online investigation. I hope it continues.”
The lawyers in question were filmed offering to invent fake backstories for illegal migrants that would prevent UK asylum laws from allowing their deportation.
For a fee of £10,000 VP Lingajothy offered to concoct a backstory for an economic migrant, involving false claims about political persecution, sexual torture, beatings and slave labour.
Mr Lingajothy said the client should lie about having “some psychological problems”, and produced antidepressant pills for them to give to officials as proof of mental trauma.
Another lawyer, Rashid Ahmad Khan, was told by an undercover reporter that he had come to the UK for work.
Despite this Mr Khan said that for a fee of £4,000 he could help the supposed migrant file an asylum claim.
Mr Khan said the client would have to “make up some story”, but later denied he offered to submit a fabricated asylum claim.
A third lawyer, Malik Nazar Hayar, told the undercover reporter: “The problem is that he doesn’t have anything now. We have to create the evidence. We have to… you can say, create something.”
He suggested inventing a story about being the victim of human trafficking, all for a fee of £5,500 in cash.
Suella Braverman has said she suspects the undercover investigation is just the “tip of the iceberg” and warned some of the practices were “potentially criminal”.