There have been protests against a UK Government pilot scheme with ‘go home’ in the message to illegal immigrants. Politicians are divided on the effectiveness of the campaign.
"Voluntary returns are the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants"
A pilot scheme run in six London boroughs with van adverts saying ‘Go home or face arrest’ targeting immigrants in the capital has caused much controversy.
The scheme backed by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, is aiming to be ‘blunt and ‘uncompromising’ he said. The objective is to deliver a strong message to people in London illegally.
The posters on the vans read: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you to return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.”
The scheme has come under fire with many branding it as ‘racist’ and claiming it would cause unrest amongst minority communities and put strain on race relations.
Councillor Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, Navin Shah, Labour London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, and Sarah Teather, Lib Dem MP for Brent Central, have all slammed the adverts fearing the campaign could create tension in the borough’s diverse community.
Lord Lipsey, a Labour party peer, objected to a claim in the ads. He said the fact: ‘106 arrests last week in your area’ on the advert was “grossly misleading.”
The advertisements were commissioned by the department of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Boris Johnson disagreed the campaign was racist and said in his newspaper column: “On that point I am afraid I have to disagree. Illegal immigrants have every opportunity to make their case to remain in Britain.”
Boris stated that a very small number of immigrants were actually expelled, leaving a virtual amnesty for the rest. “It is certainly not racist to point out this absurdity,” said Johnson.
The Mayor of London also hinted that extreme measures may be necessary to address the issue of illegal immigration saying:
“We have courts full of eloquent Lefty lawyers… taking prodigious sums of taxpayers’ money to vindicate the human rights of their clients.”
The Coalition government went into a tremendous split over the matter. However, the Prime Minister’s office supported to activity of mobile adverts offering a helpline for immigrants who would be willing to return home.
Supporters of the pilot scheme costing £11,000, say it would pay for itself; if at least one illegal immigrant is deported. Since every deportation that is forced costs at least £15,000.
Interestingly, the vans carrying the adverts targeted London boroughs where Tory rivals Ukip have gained seats, including, Hounslow, Barnet, Brent, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing and Redbridge.
Conservative Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, said the controversial poster campaign would encourage illegal immigrants to leave on a volunteer basis and act as ‘an alternative to being led away in handcuffs.’
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has fervently disapproved the scheme and stated that bringing back border based tracking with identity cards would be a much better proposition. Something he insists will be in place before 2015 by the Coalition.
“You can enforce the law successfully without instilling a tone which is unsettling to communities, particularly to mixed communities”
Senior Liberal Democrat, Vince Cable said that adverts were ‘stupid and offensive’ and would create a false ‘sense of fear’ that Britain has a ‘vast problem’ with illegal immigration.
Cable has been very critical of the Prime Minister’s so called ‘obsession’ with aims to cut net immigration to tens of thousands of people. He said it was based on ‘misleading’ statistics and was definitely “not good for the country.”
Downing Street has retaliated with claims that the ‘go home’ scheme is already working and consideration should be given for it to being rolled out in the rest of the UK.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This pilot is about targeting people who are here illegally and giving them the opportunity to leave the country voluntarily and with dignity, rather than be arrested, detained and removed.
“Voluntary returns are the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants and save the taxpayer money. This pilot builds on the government’s work on voluntary returns, which saw more than 28,000 voluntary departures last year. This work is just another part of the reforms of the immigration system that have cut out abuse and seen net migration drop to its lowest levels in nearly a decade.”
Immigration is hot on the agenda for the Conservatives and it is something they are targeting to appeal to the indigenous population. However, the effectiveness of campaigns like these is questioned. With many Desi people also here illegally the question arises would this campaign encourage them to leave? Also, how many of them can read English and why are the adverts not in other languages?
It will be interesting to see what return the Government does get on the scheme, and with opinions divided on its effectiveness, it remains to be seen if it will actually make a country-wide appearance.
Do you think the van adverts for illegal immigrants are racist?
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