United Kingdom

'Lefty lawyers' who were blasted by Priti Patel search for asylum seekers to sue the Home Office

The looming legal action is a blow to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who recently declared the asylum system to be ‘fundamentally broken’ and lambasted ‘Lefty lawyers’ 

Human rights lawyers are searching for asylum seekers to sue the Home Office in a group legal claim expected to cost taxpayers millions of pounds.

Thousands of people detained at any point in the three years to March 2017 could have a case, prompting controversial law firm Leigh Day to begin seeking potential clients, reassuring them of ‘a good prospect of success’ and adding that taxpayer-funded Legal Aid may be used to fund their claim.

The looming legal action is a blow to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who recently declared the asylum system to be ‘fundamentally broken’ and lambasted ‘Lefty lawyers’. 

It stems from a landmark Supreme Court ruling last November that the Home Office had unlawfully locked up five asylum seekers.

The five, who arrived in Britain illegally from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, had been detained under an EU regulation which states that asylum seekers should claim asylum in the first EU country they reach. 

Under the rules, only those deemed to be at ‘significant risk of absconding’ should be imprisoned, but five Supreme Court judges ruled Britain did not have proper policies in place to determine whether individuals posed this risk.

Last November’s judgment means anybody detained under the EU’s so-called Dublin III Regulation from January 2014, when it came into force, until March 15, 2017, were unlawfully detained and are now eligible for damages.

The Mail on Sunday understands the Home Office is close to agreeing damages for the five asylum seekers involved which could spark a flood of similar claims.

On its website, Leigh Day – which has previously been accused of hounding British troops over alleged wrongdoing in Iraq – says there are ‘large numbers of asylum seekers’ who may be entitled to ‘significant compensation payments’ and that it hopes to assemble a ‘group action’.

It says claims can be brought by those now living abroad and potential clients do not need evidence that they were detained, although it would be ‘useful’, adding: ‘If you do not have any proof of your detention, we may be able to request this from the Home Office on your behalf.’

Turning to funding the cases, it continues: ‘We are aiming to bring the claims under the Legal Aid scheme, which means that if you are eligible for public funding you will not need to pay.’

Last night a spokesman for Leigh Day said: ‘We are committed to providing individuals access to justice when the UK Government, or large UK-based businesses, are found by the courts to have behaved unlawfully.

‘We stand in solidarity with all lawyers whose essential role it is to challenge the Government over any breach of the human rights of a person, irrespective of where they were born.’

The Mail on Sunday understands the Home Office is close to agreeing damages for the five asylum seekers involved which could spark a flood of similar claims. The Home Office building is seen above

A second law firm – Deighton Pierce Glynn – says on its website that it is ‘representing a number of people in their compensation claims against the Home Office for unlawful detention’.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We were disappointed by the Supreme Court’s judgment, given that the individuals in question were only detained to facilitate removal to a safe European country.

‘We took immediate corrective action in March 2017 to ensure that we remain able to detain those in a similar position, who we determine are at risk of absconding.’

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