Posted on July 28, 2023

Lawyers Charging £10,000 to Make Fake Asylum Claims

Tom Kelly and Izzy Lyons, Daily Mail, July 24, 2023

Lawyers are charging thousands of pounds to submit false asylum and human rights claims for illegal immigrants.

Staff at solicitors’ firms readily agreed to help an undercover Mail reporter posing as an economic migrant get refugee status.

This was despite being told he had no legitimate reason to stay in the UK after arriving on a small boat.

VP Lingajothy asked for £10,000 to invent a horrific back story to use in the asylum application. This included claims of sexual torture, beatings, slave labour, false imprisonment and death threats that left him suicidal and compelled to flee to the UK.

The legal adviser promised he could get a doctor’s report to back up the story and produced anti-depressants to be given to the Home Office as ‘evidence’ of psychological trauma.

He boasted of a success rate of more than 90 per cent with similar asylum cases. A third outlined the ‘fine ingredients of an asylum case’ he said he would use to make it appear the reporter feared for his life in India. This could include anti-government political allegiances, a love affair with someone from the wrong caste or being gay.

Two said they would falsely claim the Mail’s reporter was a ‘victim of human trafficking’ who had been fleeced, betrayed and abandoned by people smugglers.

Many of the law firm staff enjoy wealth and prestige, including Mr Lingajothy who owns a multi-million pound property empire with his wife, drives a BMW with personalised number plates and sent his son to Eton.

But while immigrants face jail for making false asylum claims, solicitors who encourage, facilitate and profit from them merely face professional sanctions.

One law firm sacked the representative the Mail spoke to and closed one of its offices after we revealed our findings. It said his actions breached the law and broke the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct.

The SRA says its members must act with ‘honesty and integrity’ and not ‘mislead or attempt to mislead’ a court, tribunal, regulator or others. Those found to be acting dishonestly face being struck off.

But our investigation discovered widespread and blatant abuse of the rules by lawyers and legal representatives at registered solicitors’ firms.

In most cases they suggested our journalist, who was originally from the Punjab, should pretend to be a supporter of a Sikh separatist movement banned in India – giving him grounds for asylum.

In two cases the solicitors, who charge between £4,000 and £10,000 for their services, invented elaborate fake stories to back up the claim.

One said he would scour the internet for extra information to bolster the concocted story and was happy to send the Home Office pictures of another man who looked similar to the reporter at anti-government protests in India.

There were 74,751 asylum applications, relating to nearly 90,000 people, in 2022 – more than twice the number of applications in 2019 – with just under half from people who arrived by small boat. Almost all of the one in four asylum claimants whose applications were rejected by the Home Office last year appealed.

It is understood that up to 40 solicitors’ firms are being monitored by the authorities amid suspected asylum claim ‘abuses’ and allegations of ‘carbon copy’ applications from different people represented by the same firms.

Tony Smith, a former head of the UK Border Force, called for stronger checks on ‘rogue solicitors’ who invent stories for immigration claims. He described it as ‘big business’ and said the legal representatives were ‘making profits out of other people’s misery’.

‘Coaching people to tell lies to gain an advantage in terms of an application they are making is quite wrong, because we should really be working on a basis of integrity from the lawyers,’ he said.

‘If we’re going to continue to allow lawyers to sit in on immigration interviews and represent immigrants in interviews about status, we need to be satisfied that they are properly accredited and that accreditation would demand a rigorous assessment of integrity.’

Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch, which campaigns for tougher border controls, added: ‘This is shocking. It is beyond belief that lawyers would pervert the course of justice by concocting stories for bogus asylum seekers and pocket huge sums by doing it.

‘It undermines the legal system and discredits the asylum process. Such lawyers are a disgrace to their profession.’

A spokesman for the SRA said last night: ‘All solicitors should uphold the high professional standards that we and the public expect of them. This is especially important in areas such as immigration where those involved may be among the most vulnerable in society.