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Lawyers 'painted as villains' by Home Office over migration

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following some small boat incidents in the Channel earlier today. Picture by Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent

The Home Office has been accused of "painting lawyers as villains" amid a row over migrant crossings.

More migrants have arrived in Dover this morning as the UK shakes off the high winds of Storm Francis.

The new arrivals - brought in on Border Force speedboats - were taken ashore in the Kent port.

It comes as the Home Office faces criticism over its renewed attack on "activist lawyers" which it says are hindering their efforts to deport migrants.

A video posted to its Twitter account last night showed a moving graphic of deportation planes leaving the UK.

The clip has been branded "scandalous" and "utterly disgraceful" by senior law figures, and many on social media likened it to something from the TV show Dad's Army.

More than 5,000 migrants have crossed to the UK in small boats so far in 2020, analysis by the PA news agency shows.

The Law Society condemned the video, and president Simon Davis said: "Attacks on the integrity of the legal profession undermine the rule of law.

"To describe lawyers who are upholding the law as 'activist lawyers' is misleading and dangerous.

"We should be proud that we live in a country where legal rights cannot be overridden without due process, and we should be proud that we have legal professionals who serve the rule of law."

The video, which has been viewed more than 630,000 times in less than 24 hours, says: "We are working to remove migrants with no right to remain in the UK.

"But currently return regulations are rigid and open to abuse...

"Allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns."

It has sparked criticism and debate on social media, with lawyer and politicians weighing in.

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal tweeted: "'Activist lawyers' ensure that humans have rights

"They ensure OUR laws are followed

"This is scandalous."

Meanwhile Labour MP Stella Creasey said: "The UK Government attacking 'activist lawyers', dehumanising people fleeing persecution and boasting about deportations as if that will stop the traffickers - Trump isn't their inspiration, this IS Trump.

"Not only shameful, ultimately futile as the boats keep coming..."

Barrister Richard Booth QC tweeted: "This is utterly disgraceful from the Home Office, painting lawyers as villains.

"A very slippery and dangerous slope."

Groups of migrants wearing blankets were seen arriving into the port of Dover earlier on Thursday morning.

Two dinghies thought to have been used by people crossing the Channel were also observed being towed into the harbour by Border Force.

Both UK and French authorities have been active in the Dover Strait.

Today's arrivals come after several days where the high winds of Storm Francis rendered crossings dangerous and no migrants are known to have made it to the UK in that time.

It comes after the Ministry of Defence announced that Royal Navy vessels have participated in training with Border Force "to evaluate how they might be used to support the Home Office in tackling Channel crossings".

The MoD stressed that this was still in a trial stage and no decisions on deployment have been made.

Last week it was announced that any migrant children arriving on small boats without family will be left with Border Force after Kent County Council announced it had reached capacity.

Instead, any unaccompanied child asylum seekers will stay in the agency's Kent Intake Unit at Dover until a place can be found with another local authority.

The Home Office describes the facility as a "processing centre", but charities have raised concerns.

Lawyers acting for Detention Action have written to the Home Secretary, describing the move as an "alarming development".

In the letter, lawyers Duncan Lewis said: "Detention Action therefore has significant difficulties identifying what lawful

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