Elham Asaad Buaras
The Home Office’s contentious ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ campaign is under investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after the watchdog received 60 complaints from the public accusing the campaign of being racist, misleading and inciting racial tension.
The Home Office has been condemned for the campaign, which has seen mobile vans drive through six London boroughs carrying billboards telling illegal immigrants to return home voluntarily.
The billboards have been driven around the London boroughs of Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge.
Leaflets and posters highlighting the advantages of returning home voluntarily were also circulated.
The ASA has is now investigating whether not the advert is in violation of the advertising code because it is offensive and irresponsible.
Many of the complainants believe that the adverts are “reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past and could incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities.”
The campaign has also caused a rift in the Coalition, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal-Democrats, Nick Clegg, has described the campaign as not a “clever” way to deal with immigration while Business Secretary, Vince Cable, branded it “stupid” and “offensive”.
Former member of the ASA’s Council and Labour Peer Lord David Lipsey, is among the complainants who argued that the campaign was misleading by claiming that: ‘106 arrests last week in your area’, because it implies arrest is the automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission.
“The Government is deliberately misleading the public by aggregating figures over an area which no one would describe as theirs,” said Lord Lipsey.
“If the Government is to mount a campaign of this nature, it is incumbent on it to ensure that it does not exaggerate or lie, in breach of the advertising code of practice.”
He added: “On the face of things, this advert falls far short of the standards insisted on by the ASA. I have accordingly asked it to rule urgently on its acceptability.”
Criticism of the campaign has not been exclusive to Labour and Liberal-Democrat politicians. Conservative MP Douglas Carswell described the billboards as an illustration of “the breathtaking stupidity of the people in charge of our immigration system knows no bounds.”
Downing Street initially defended the campaign insisting the billboards were attracting “a great deal of interest” and confirmed that an evaluation of the pilot scheme could lead to it being rolled out more widely.
The Prime Minister’s office said: “This pilot that is currently running is about targeting [illegal immigrants] and it is working.”
A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed to The Muslim News that they are in contact with the ASA “over this investigation and will respond in due course” but refused to comment if the pilot scheme is to be extended.
Human Rights organisations including Amnesty, Refugee Action and Freedom from Torture, described the campaign as a cynical ploy that would foster hostility toward minority groups.