The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has asked the British High Commission to disclose to the Supreme Court and to the BASL the names of persons who, claiming to be attorneys-at-law, have provided false documents or certifications to Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Britain.
The BASL has also said the British High Commission had not divulged the particulars of such persons “despite the BASL having previously requesting [sic] the officials of the High Commission to do so”.
The Sunday Times last week reported how an officer of the British High Commission wrote to the Home Office in Britain claiming that a vast majority of endorsement documents provided by Sri Lankan attorneys in support of local asylum seekers were “not credible”.
This conclusion was drawn after the British High Commission’s Migration Division checked 80 asylum cases referred to it by the Asylum Casework Directorate and Appeals and Litigation in Britain.
Thirty of the cases included attorney endorsement documents, either in the form of letters or credentials (qualifications or membership documents).
Of these 30 cases, “the vast majority (86.7%) of letters provided by Sri Lankan attorneys that we have verified are not credible,” said communication to the Home Office by the Second Secretary (Migration) of the British High Commission in Colombo.
“This includes 23% attorney letters, 20% of attorney credentials, 30% other documents submitted though attorneys were not contactable and 13% of attorney letters were suspicious.”
In a response emailed to the Sunday Times this week, BASL Secretary Ajith Pathirana said it has been the consistent position of the Association that attorneys-at-law indulging in unethical and wrongful conduct should be dealt with in terms of the Code of Ethics of the legal profession.
“The BASL will not hesitate to initiate disciplinary proceedings against errant members and to draw the attention of the Supreme Court to such unethical conduct,” he said.
“However, for this end it is necessary that the details of such persons should be disclosed, in order to firstly verify if such persons are indeed Attorneys-at-Law and secondly to initiate appropriate proceedings against them,” Mr. Pathirana said.
“Regrettably, up to now the BASL has not been provided with the names of persons claiming to be Attorneys-at-Law who are alleged to have provided false documents to the British High Commission. This is despite the BASL having previously requesting [sic] officials of the High Commission to do so.
“The BASL, therefore, calls upon the British High Commission to disclose to the Supreme Court and the BASL the names of persons claiming to be Attorneys-at-Law who have provided false documents or false certifications, so that appropriate action could be taken forthwith against them.”
The British Home Office, when a response was sought by the Sunday Times, replied: “We do not comment on ongoing operational matters”.
The letter of the officer of the British High Commission pertaining to attorney letters provided a breakdown of investigated cases.
Of thirty, there were seven cases where the attorneys confirmed they had written the letter stating there was a live court case or arrest warrant.But when verified separately with the police stations or courts that purportedly issued these warrants, they were found to be false. These documents included six arrest warrants and one receipt of arrest.
In four cases, attorneys confirmed the letters had been written by them but there were no other documents provided to verify. “In these cases, the credibility of the attorney is questionable as we found several discrepancies in a copy he produced compared to the original letter submitted in the UK,” the officer writes to the Home Office.
There were six cases where the attorney’s credentials were found to be false (four attorney-at-law certificates and two Bar Association memberships).
Eleven attorneys were not contactable, “despite repeated attempts to verify the letters saying that there were live court cases or arrest warrants for their clients”. In one of these cases, there was no other documentation submitted.
In nine of these cases, the other documents submitted (court documents or arrest warrants) “were verified as false through direct checks with the courts or police stations that purportedly issued them”. In only one of the 11 cases were the supporting court or police documents genuine.
In just two of the cases, the attorney confirmed the letters were not issued by him, the officer observes. The British High Commission did not provide details of the lawyers, such as names, despite a request for them. It also did not say who these asylum seekers were and from where.