Ethical Immigration Advice: Part 2
The UK Government have politicised immigration, and are leading the perception of immigration lawyers as ‘crooked’ or ‘rogue’ lawyers.
A government clampdown on crooked lawyers who coach illegal migrants to lie will see a dedicated taskforce work with industry bodies and law enforcement to build stronger evidence bases to support prosecutions. The Professional Enablers Taskforce is bringing together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system.
The taskforce has been up and carrying out preliminary work over the past few months, working with partners to tackle immigration abuse in the legal sector by improving how intelligence and information is shared by regulators. Today marks its official launch. Law enforcement are also working to bring fresh prosecutions against corrupt immigration lawyers who could face up to life in prison for assisting illegal migrants to remain in the country by deception.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
“Crooked immigration lawyers must be rooted out and brought to justice. While the majority of lawyers act with integrity – we know that some are lying to help illegal migrants game the system. It is not right or fair on those who play by the rules.”
Another MP said:
“The British people want us to put an end to illegal migration – I am determined to crack down on these immoral lawyers and Stop the Boats
The Solicitors Regulation Authority have issued a Warning Notice to all law firms and solicitors providing immigration services:
“Based on examples that we have seen, and that have been reported in the press, we are concerned about solicitors potentially advising clients or prospective clients to falsify or fabricate information to support Home Office applications for asylum or leave to remain.
The Warning Notice goes on to state:
Over a period of time we have also identified risks around solicitors producing poorly drafted applications, or advising their clients to pursue totally without merit appeals of Home Office decisions through the courts.
Applying to appeal decisions where the case is without merit and bound to fail abuses the courts system, and does not uphold the rule of law. This has detrimental impacts for the effective administration of justice, and solicitors have been prosecuted at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on these matters.
More recently, in July 2023 we intervened into three specific firms and made an order restricting the practice of a non-authorised person working at another.
All solicitors should act with honesty and integrity, upholding the high professional standards that we and the public expect of them. This is especially important in areas such as immigration and asylum where those involved may be among the most vulnerable in society.”
All of this leads to a negative public perception of immigration lawyers, by association, and in my opinion the road is inevitably leading to further regulation and tighter restrictions on all immigration solicitors, in spite of the fact that the majority of practitioners are honest, hard working and ethical.
I am Christopher Dias, an immigration solicitor of 21+ years, and myself and other members of the Lawyery immigration team have discussed the current climate. We feel that, as a consequence of the Government’s negative publicity of immigration lawyers, reinforced by the unethical conduct of the three solicitor firms involved, the outlook is grim. The inevitable conclusion is that the current public perception of immigration law and immigration lawyers, specifically solicitors, is very poor. So how can we as a profession fix this? Do we just put our heads down and hope it goes away? As the SRA has shown by today's publication of the Warning Notice, it will not just go away, and it is clear that our Regulator feels that it should single out immigration solicitors for this warning.
I and my colleagues at Lawyery feel that as a profession we need to be proactive in dealing with this crisis of confidence. We feel the regulation of solicitors does have the correct balance , but that the majority of the public have no idea of our standards and ethics. We feel that creating a code of ethics for immigration lawyers, based on existing principles that govern all solicitors, can help regain the trust of the public, businesses, and the government. We feel that this is essential for maintaining credibility, integrity and professionalism in this field, where the actions of a few rogue advisors have tarnished the reputation of our profession.
We have therefore created and adopted a 10-point code of ethics for immigration lawyers, that highlight and reinforce key elements of the SRA Code of Conduct which govern all solicitors, and which differentiate solicitors from other immigration advisors:
Client-Centred Approach: Always prioritise the best interests of your clients. Provide honest and transparent advice while respecting their dignity and rights.
Competence and Continuous Learning: Commit to maintaining a high level of competence by staying up-to-date with the latest immigration laws and regulations. Engage in ongoing professional development and training.
Confidentiality: Safeguard all client information and maintain strict confidentiality. Only share information with client consent or as required by law.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest: Identify and avoid conflicts of interest that could compromise the client's best interests. Be transparent and disclose any potential conflicts.
Fair and Transparent Billing: Provide clear, fair, and transparent billing practices. Avoid overcharging or taking advantage of vulnerable clients.
Ethical Representation: Always provide honest and ethical representation. Do not engage in fraudulent or unethical activities to secure immigration benefits.
Access to Justice: Strive to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their background or financial situation, have access to legal representation. Consider pro bono work and affordable fee structures.
Respect for Diversity: Embrace diversity and treat all clients with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
Anti-Discrimination: Do not engage in or support discriminatory practices, including discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
Community Engagement: Be an active and responsible member of the legal community. Engage in community service, mentorship, and advocacy to promote fair immigration policies and access to justice.
We have put this Code of Ethics for immigration solicitors online at www.ethicalimmigrationadvice.com for all to see, as a declaration that not all immigration solicitors are the same as those who were investigated and closed; that we can be trusted, we can be professional and above all we can be ethical. We have also created an 'ethical immigration advice' badge to be displayed on web pages to show that we uphold these principles.
By publicly signing up to this code of ethics, immigration lawyers can work towards regaining the trust of the public, businesses, and the government, while upholding the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in their practice.
I therefore invite all of my connections and fellow immigration solicitors to stand beside us and sign up at: www.ethicalimmigrationadvice.com