Ruling on 'offensive,' Home Office campaign promised that within weeks The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will rule in the next couple of months on the Home Office’s controversial advertising campaign aimed at encouraging voluntary repatriation by undocumented migrant workers. The pilot scheme in several of London’s most multi-ethnic boroughs used vans carrying advertisements telling people to go home or face arrest. The campaign was accompanied by random ‘stop and search’ patrols by UK Border Police at underground stations in the selected boroughs targeted at suspected undocumented migrants. “The Government and the ASA have agreed not to comment until the ruling which should be in October or November,” said an Advertising Authority spokesman.
The advertising watchdog inquiry was sparked by dozens of complaints from the public. The offensive language used in the campaign’s uncompromising “Go Home” message also led to allegations of racism from Liberal Democrat politicians who are part of the coalition government. Rights groups such as Amnesty International, Liberty, and Freedom from Torture came down heavily against the campaign, which they said created a climate of fear. “The heavy-handed ‘stop and search’ activity outside London tube stations harks back to a period before the Lawrence inquiry and raises questions about racial profiling in immigration control,” the charities said, in a reference to the investigation into police handling of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, which covers one of the boroughs targeted in the campaign, wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May protesting that the van posed a threat to “the cohesion and integrity of our society as a whole. The sight of these vans driving round London will only succeed in creating division in a city famed for its diversity...The aggressive nature of this ill-thought campaign will only lead to further barriers between local people and the authorities."
After the barrage of criticism, the £10,000 pilot scheme was halted after a week in July. And in the wake of a legal challenge, solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn said that the Home Office had agreed never to run adverts telling migrants to go home again without consulting local authorities and community groups and that it would give “due regard” to the effect a such a campaign on the communities living in the affected areas. There were also complaints of “racial” profiling by UK Border Police as questions were raised as to why only people of colour were being targeted. Moreover, critics claimed the advertising campaign, which carried a number for undocumented migrants to text and “give themselves up” in return for a ticket home was ineffectual. In his letter to May, Lammy asked the government how many people texted the number provided and how many of these replies came from illegal migrants. Article by: Hillary Clarke Photo by: Liberty