An officer of the British High Commission in Colombo has written 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 has been drawn after the migration division of the British High Commission in Colombo 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,” states the communication to the Home Office by 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.”
The Sunday Times has seen a copy of the letter. We asked the British High Commission why a relatively small sample was used to make a blanket assertion on all Sri Lankan attorneys. A spokesperson replied: “The context of the letter is very clear. This is about a very specific issue. It is in no way a statement about the assertions of all Sri Lankan lawyers, and the preceding text makes that readily apparent.”
“The text referred to is a breakdown of investigated cases. There were seven cases where the attorney confirmed they had written the letter stating that 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,” the officer writes to the Home Office. 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 with the original letter submitted in the UK,” the officer states.
There were six cases where the attorney’s credentials were found to be false (four Attorneys-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 in Colombo did not provide details of the lawyers, such as names, despite a request for them. It also did not answer who these asylum seekers were and from where.
Questions were met with standard replies from the Home Office such as: “The United Kingdom has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection, and all claims are carefully considered on their individual merits”.
It also said all asylum decision-making staff receive basic training in forgery and handling documents; that document examination forms part of the standard security checks in all cases; and that any evidence of forgery will be considered when deciding asylum claims”.