A tweet by the Home Office suggesting that ‘activist lawyers’ and EU laws were ‘disrupting’ the deportation of refugees from the UK has provoked huge public backlash.
Legal experts, politicians, and members of the public shared their outrage on Twitter over a message by department detailing how it was working to remove asylum with no right to remain in the UK.
Department officials posted a short clip posted Wednesday evening claiming that ‘current return regulations are rigid and open to abuse allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns’ of refugees seeking asylum in Britain.
It went on to say that soon the UK ‘will no longer be bound by EU laws and can negotiate our own return arrangements’ after Brexit.
Paul James Cardwell, a law professor at Strathclyde University, called the clip ‘obscene’.
‘Difficult to know where to begin with this obscene clip, a day after a young woman died of extreme poverty after claiming asylum and being unable to work,’ he wrote.
The professor continued: ‘Current regulations are ‘open to abuse’. What ‘abuse’? For an immigration-obsessed government in power for 10 years you might have expected to have solved this if it is such a big issue.
‘Attack on ‘activist lawyers’. Lawyers act on behalf of their clients and use the means allowed *in law* to get the best result for their clients. But [the] aim here is to cast the blame wider than migrants themselves.’
Cardwell suggested leaving the EU would make it harder to deport refugees.
‘If the UK simply expects other EU states to take back returnees – then good luck with that. Take back control means removing cooperation frameworks. And for a gov that likes passing ever more immigration law, this shouldn’t be a surprise.’
Cardwell concluded by calling for greater empathy for the plight of asylum seekers: ‘At the heart of this are *people*. Human beings. Who are vulnerable and desperate. What does it say of our society (let alone ‘Global Britain’) when a gov department directs such hatred towards such individuals?’
Human rights lawyer Jessica Simor QC described the clip as being filled with ‘full blown lies’ while former chief prosecutor for north-west England and OBE recipient Nazir Afzal called it ‘scandalous’. ”Activist lawyers’ ensure that humans have rights. They ensure OUR laws are followed. This is scandalous.’
A former Home Office employee tweeted: ‘I worked for the Home Office for seven years. I genuinely thought this tweet was from a spoof account. Return arrangements are nothing to do with the EU. The constraints come from the Human Rights Act and UK Case Law. This is bonkers propaganda.’
Campaigner Mary Atkinson wrote: ‘A reminder that the Home Office spent over £26 million last year on its own army of ‘activist lawyers’ to defend it in court. Maybe if they just complied with human rights law, none of that would be necessary.’
Historian Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley pointed out that Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights forbids the deportation of people to countries where they will be tortured or killed. ‘Those ‘activist lawyers’ are just … lawyers,’ she said.
Stephen Hale, the chief executive of asylum seeker charity Refugee Action called the clip ‘an assault on human dignity & the rule of law’.
Greens Party politician and former South West MEP Molly Cato accused the government of scapegoating laywers. She said: ‘Why has this short video from Home Office caused such concern? It scapegoats lawyers defending human rights – a trope common to authoritarian regimes. It misleads the public by implying that the EU is causing migrants to come to UK.’
The clip comes after a Ugandan mother was found dead on Saturday in Glasgow with her ‘starving’ one-year-old son by her side. It is understood that she had been ‘functionally destitute’ since losing her right to work when her leave to remain expired.