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‘Crackdown is PR stunt’

09 August 2013


Poster vans: the human-rights group Liberty's vehicle which criticises the Home Office's own "go home" van

Poster vans: the human-rights group Liberty's vehicle which criticises the Home Office's own "go home" van

A CAMPAIGN launched by the Home Office to crack down on illegal immigrants is a "macho PR stunt" that "feeds into a racist agenda", the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has said.

The Home Office started piloting a campaign last week whereby vans toured six London boroughs, bearing slogans such as: "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest." Speaking on Radio 4's Sunday programme this week, Bishop Baines said: "Of course the country needs a proper immigration policy. . . But you don't solve the problem of not having an effective policy . . . by running a campaign like this." The campaign served to categorise people, he said, "and then we know from history that if you categorise people, you dehumanise them."

Bishop Baines said that he did not think that the campaign itself was racist, but insisted that "it feeds into a racist agenda." He criticised the Home Office for broadcasting on its Twitter account how many suspected illegal immigrants had been arrested each day: "There is something very nasty going on in this."

Writing on his blog on Sunday, Bishop Baines described the campaign as "a macho PR stunt that will achieve little, but cause real damage to language, culture, and community. . . If the Government wants to address immigration, it should do so by sorting out a workable policy and ensure that those who do apply for asylum or a right to remain are treated hu- manely, efficiently, and effectively - and, if appropriate, prevented from entering the country in the first place. To distract attention with displays of hardness has everything to do with political PR, and little to do with reality."

The Home Office announced last week that 139 "immigration offenders" had been arrested "as part of a day of high-profile . . . activity to tackle illegal working".

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced on Friday that it would be investigating the campaign after receiving complaints. It said in a statement that some complainants had been concerned that the phrase "go home" was "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".

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