The Evening Standard reports that the Home Office is planning on sending large billboards with “Go home or face arrest” on them around six London boroughs:
The billboards will also display the number of illegal migrants arrested recently in the relevant part of the capital.
Ministers say that the hardline message is intended to encourage visa overstayers or others here unlawfully to return voluntarily.
A phone number offering help – including potential free flights and other travel assistance – will also be shown on the adverts along with the promise that those who come forward voluntarily will not be detained while they arrange their departure.
The use of the advertising vans, which will be deployed initially to six London boroughs including Ealing, Barnet and Hounslow, forms the latest stage in a renewed Home Office drive against illegal migrants in recent months.
Some critics are likely to see the move as evidence of an excessively hostile attitude to migrants.
Sarah Teather, whose Brent constituency is one of the targets of this campaign has taken great exception to the plan:
This is the latest in a string of Home Office announcements that are designed to make the Government look tough on immigration. But I fear that the only impact this deeply divisive form of politics will have will be to create tension and mistrust towards anyone who looks and sounds foreign.
Instead of trying to grab cheap headlines, the Government would be much better advised to tackle the real issues that undermine confidence in the immigration system. Home Office statistics show that decision making by officials is extremely poor and leads to a quarter of initial decisions to refuse asylum being overturned on appeal. And many of those people who the Government are targeting with these policies are either those whose case has been mishandled by the Home Office, or who Ministers acknowledge cannot be sent home because they wouldn’t be safe.
Vulnerable individuals who are fleeing persecution and violence are treated with disbelief and a complete lack of compassion in a rigid and inhumane system. But rather than tackling these problems head on, Ministers are choosing to once more crank up the anti-migrant rhetoric.
These adverts are nothing less than straightforward intimidation and can only have bad consequences for communities like those I represent in Brent, where people from all faiths and races have mixed for decades. We will all be much poorer for it.
It worries me that this sort of thing will just generate hatred towards people, including those who have every right to be in this country. It certainly has the potential to make everyone who has made their home in this country feel very uncomfortable. My instinctive reaction is to want to stand with the people who are or who will feel they are the target of these billboards. One person suggested on Twitter that she’s tempted to have a suitable reply printed on a t-shirt and to wear it round Brent. It got me thinking that this initiative actually deserves to be mocked into retreat. Sometimes the best way to deal with these deeply divisive things is to come up with some humorous, eye-catching riposte. Any ideas?
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings