Tories step up attacks on refugees & their lawyers

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Care4Calais protesters demanding no to offshore detention

THE TORIES threatened refugees who refuse to board the Bibby Stockholm ‘death-trap barge’ with destitution yesterday, while Home Secretary Suella Braverman described their legal representatives, as ‘crooked lawyers’.

The first group of 15 people boarded the vessel on Monday, but 20 refused.

If they had not moved on to the accommodation barge by the end of yesterday, their housing assistance could be withdrawn, leading Tories warned.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the withdrawal of state-funded support is ‘unlikely’ to be illegal.

He threatened: ‘That is something that the courts would have to consider but I think it’s unlikely, bluntly, that it would be illegal to do so, but all cases are considered on their facts.’

Cheryl Avery, Director for Asylum Accommodation at the Home Office, said some 15 people had boarded the barge on Monday, but a group of about 20 people had refused to board.

‘There have been some challenges – some minor legal challenges – and I can’t go into the detail of those, but accommodation is offered to individuals on a no-choice basis.’

One of the 20 refugees who refused to travel to Portland subsequently received a letter warning that ‘arrangements for ceasing the support that you are receiving from the Home Office may commence’.

‘Where asylum seekers fail to take up an offer of suitable accommodation without a reasonable explanation, there should be no expectation that alternative accommodation will be offered,’ the letter added.

Care4Calais, which is providing legal support to 20 asylum seekers wanting to challenge being moved to Portland, said: ‘Housing people fleeing threats and persecution on an overcrowded barge is appalling, and in itself likely to cause extreme distress.

‘These are people who have endured horrific and often life-threatening journeys; being trapped in small, cell-like rooms behind the high metal fences will induce fear, anxiety and panic.’

Meanwhile, Braverman announced that a new ‘taskforce’ has officially been launched to move against ‘crooked immigration lawyers’, saying that laws are in place that can see them locked up ‘for life’.

‘Those found guilty of helping people remain in the country by fraudulent means could face life imprisonment,’ the government statement says.

Braverman said: ‘Crooked immigration lawyers must be rooted out and brought to justice.’

Tory Party deputy chairman and former Labour councillor Lee Anderson used an expletive to say that if they did not like barges, they should go back to France.

Asked about the language, Justice Secretary Chalk told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Lee has expressed himself in his own way but the central point he’s making is not unreasonable.’

David McNeill, from the Law Society, responded that the announcement of the ‘taskforce looks like a bit of lawyer-bashing’.

Labour again attacked the Tory anti-refugee policies from the right, with shadow justice secretary Steve Reed saying the announcement was ‘too little too late’ and accusing the Tories of having ‘sat idly by for 13 years while illegal migration has spun out of control’.