The Home Office has been accused of an “assault on the rule of law” over its comments about “activist lawyers” who are representing migrants.
Home Secretary Priti Patel's department has faced fierce criticism from legal figures over a video posted to its Twitter account about its efforts to remove migrants from the UK.
The clip, which has been viewed nearly a million times in less than 24 hours, says that current regulations are “allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns”.
The comments have been criticised by various legal figures including immigration lawyers Duncan Lewis, who described them as “alarming”.
More migrants were seen arriving in Dover on Thursday morning, wearing blankets and life jackets.
Multiple boats are believed to have crossed the English Channel after many days of bad weather brought by Storm Francis.
Twelve migrants were returned to continental Europe on a flight from the UK on Wednesday, the Home Office confirmed.
A video posted to its Twitter account on Wednesday evening showed a moving graphic of planes leaving the UK.
It 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.”
Toufique Hossain, the director of public law at Duncan Lewis, described the comments made by the Home Office as “alarming”.
He said: “Yet another attack on lawyers who are simply doing their best, under exceptionally difficult circumstances, to assist deeply vulnerable clients.
“This isn’t an attack on activism, it is an assault on the rule of law and people’s constitutional right to access justice.
“The Government can keep saying what they are saying, but we’ll continue to do what we are doing.”
Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, 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.”
A spokesman for Justice Secretary Robert Buckland declined to comment on the row.
Barrister Richard Booth QC tweeted: “This is utterly disgraceful from the Home Office, painting lawyers as villains.”
Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper tweeted: “The Conservatives’ attacks on the rule of law and those who uphold it must stop.”
More than 5,000 migrants have crossed to the UK in small boats so far in 2020, analysis by PA shows.
Individuals wearing masks and life jackets were seen arriving in Dover aboard Border Force vessels before being taken ashore.
The suspected migrant arrivals were accompanied up the gangway to the processing area by officials in fluorescent clothing.
Once ashore, they will have been assessed for symptoms of coronavirus, as is protocol.
Later, two empty dinghies believed to have been used in the crossings were towed into the harbour.
Border Force’s cutter Seeker remains active in the English Channel, along with a French warship.
Thursday’s arrivals are believed to be the first since August 21, with the lashing winds of Storm Francis rendering the narrow sea route too dangerous.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a Shadow R1 aircraft was sent to survey the Channel and monitor the waters for attempted crossings, despite the Home Office confirming none took place that day.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy is considering deploying small patrol boats to the Channel to assist Border Force, PA understands.