Home Office admits video attacking lawyers who help migrants was wrong


The Home Office has admitted an advert attacking “activist lawyers” who represent people fighting deportation should not have been published – but has so far failed to remove it.

The department’s top civil servant, permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft, upheld complaints against the video tweeted out on Wednesday.

It sparked widespread condemnation from legal figures and opposition politicians, with human rights charity Liberty calling the post “boastful disregard for human life”.

Migrants wait to be rescued from their tiny dinghy
At least 4,100 people have arrived in small boat crossings this year

Labour MP Kate Osamor said it was “dishing out racism, xenophobia and persecution” while Joanna Cherry QC, an SNP MP, called it a “disgraceful” piece of “propaganda” against the justice system.

Nazir Afal, a former chief prosecutor, added that it was “scandalous” as “activist lawyers ensure humans have rights” and “they ensure our laws are followed”.

Barrister Matthew Scott tweeted: “Apparently it’s now the patriotic duty of lawyers not to help asylum seekers.”

One day after the video was released, Mr Rycroft responded to a complaint by Jonathan Portes – a former top civil servant.

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“I agree the phrase you quote should not have been used on an official government channel,” he said.

“I have made clear to the team this post should not be used again from Home Office accounts or anywhere else by civil servants.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons, London, where she promised a "full evaluation" of the hostile environment policy in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
Priti Patel said the crossings would have become an ‘infrequent phenomenon’

Despite the ruling, the video has still not been deleted.

The Home Office did not explain why, when asked by Sky News.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: “It is a blatant breach of civil service standards and an attack on the rule of law. Who signed it off? Why is it still up?”

Earlier, minister Chris Philp shared the video in defence of the government’s action to deter those coming to the UK on small boats across the English Channel, in search of a better life.

“Today we removed people who came by small boat but had previously claimed asylum in other EU countries back to those EU countries,” he said.

A man gives a thumbs up as he sits with a group of people, thought to be migrants, crossing the Channel in a small boat
A group of people, thought to be migrants, crossing the Channel in a small boat

“These crossings are dangerous, unnecessary and futile – we will seek to return people who make them.

“Yesterday and today, no one made the crossing.”

Another deportation flight scheduled for Thursday morning was halted due to a high volume of last-minute legal challenges, the Home Office said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had promised last year the crossings would have become an “infrequent phenomenon” by now.

She has since appointed a so-called “Clandestine Channel threat commander”, who she says will lead efforts to cut the numbers arriving by small boat, which have been at least 4,100 since the start of 2020.

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