The UK Government is promising a "clampdown" on unscrupulous immigration lawyers who coach illegal migrants to make false claims.

A dedicated taskforce will work with professional bodies and law enforcement to build stronger evidence bases to support prosecutions.

The announcement flows an exposure in the Daily Mail of three legal firms apparently offering such assistance to a reporter in a "sting" operation. The Solicitors Regulation Authority suspended three firms in England & Wales following the revelations.

Ministers said that while "the vast majority of lawyers act with professionalism and integrity", a "small minority" have been encouraging illegal migrants to make false claims.

Their Professional Enablers Taskforce will bring together regulatory bodies, law enforcement teams and Government departments to increase enforcement action against lawyers who help migrants exploit the immigration system. Preliminary work has been carried out over the past few months, and today marks its official launch.

Anyone caught could be prosecuted for assisting unlawful immigration to the UK, contrary to s 25 of the Immigration Act 1971, for which the maximum penalty was increased last year to life imprisonment.

A new training package has been developed for frontline staff who work in the immigration system, to help them identify and report suspect activity so they can support enforcement measures.

The Government said the taskforce had uncovered one case in which an immigration firm was linked to one of the most wanted human traffickers.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk KC commented: "The accuracy and honesty of legal advice underpins the integrity of our world-leading legal system, so those who undermine it by encouraging deception must be held to account.

"This Government is committed to stopping the boats – that means breaking the business model of criminal gangs and holding to account unscrupulous lawyers who aid and abet them by abusing the legal system."

Richard Atkinson, deputy vice president of the Law Society of England & Wales, called on the Government to "share intelligence about immigration advisers of all kinds if they have concerns". He added: "The focus of the Home Office on a tiny minority of lawyers to which they are apparently applying considerable resources should not deflect from the fact that there remain significant backlogs in asylum claims or the unworkability of the Illegal Migration Act."