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Home Office ‘Go home’ vans were ‘unacceptable’, says study

'UNACCEPTABLE': 74 per cent of people surveyed disagreed with the message (PA)

GOVERNMENT PILOT scheme vans brandishing the slogan “Go home or face arrest” is an “unacceptable” message for an immigration campaign, according to results of an independent survey recently carried out.

The controversial van campaign, that saw the vehicles driven through London boroughs for a week at the end of July, generated significant criticism from widespread and diverse quarters, including Doreen Lawrence, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, MP David Lammy, Business Secretary Vince Cable, the Unite union, and civil rights group Liberty.

The study confirmed the concerns of public figures were shared at a grassroots level, with 74 per cent of community respondents saying the “Go home” phrase was not acceptable, while 63 per cent did not agree with the van campaign.

The survey was conducted at street level in London, Birmingham and Leeds, and canvassed the views of over 200 people on the Home Office vans and the department’s tactics of immigration checks in public spaces.

One person surveyed was surprised to learn it was a sanctioned government campaign after originally thinking the vans were organised by “an extremist group”.

Another respondent provided feedback saying: “Racism is learned, via campaigns like this, designed to make people feel paranoid. It is designed in a way that white people feel superior. They will not be checked.”

In addition, further response to the survey added: “It’s feeding the sense that ‘they’ are taking our jobs, so scaremongering. Immigrants are doing the menial jobs that no one wants to do. I am a taxpayer and the government is wasting my money on this.”

The research also determined that people generally agreed with Mrs Lawrence’s view shared on ITV’s Daybreak show that Home Office officials had “racially” targeted individual because of “skin colour”.

And 79 per cent believed that it was wrong to carry out immigration checks on the basis of skin colour, while 75 per cent thought the spot checks have had an impact on community relations.

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, a lead researcher of the study, said the “majority… disagreed with the approach used in government campaigns against immigration” and that the survey showed people thought campaign had no clear outcome, with 25 per cent believing “the aim was to increase intolerance.”

Bhattacharyya, of the University of East London, said: “These Home Office campaigns target highly diverse neighbourhoods and impact on the lives of people there.

“We wanted to get a sense of how people who live in these neighbourhoods feel about being the focus for these government experiments.”

She added: “The findings of the study raise serious questions about the impact of such campaigns on social cohesion.

“These findings show widespread concern about the implications for the wider community.”

Since the pilot campaign ended, the Home Office has acknowledged criticism its campaign has attracted – Cable called it “stupid and offensive”, while Unite chief Len McCluskey labelled it “vile”.

Despite offering “no apology for conducting immigration enforcement operations”, David Wood, the department’s director general, said in response to a legal challenge from solicitors Deighton Pierce Glynn that “any further campaigns we would have due regard to the effect this will have on migrants living lawfully in those communities”.

According to Home Office statistics, over 9,000 people were arrested in the past year for suspected immigration offences, and that it costs about £14,000 to forcibly remove someone from this country, compared to between £75 and £750 for an illegal immigrant who leaves voluntarily.

Earlier this month, Lammy wrote an open letter to Home Secretary Theresa May asking for a full cost and benefit analysis of the campaign, including “the number of people that texted the number listed on the “Go Home” vans and the number of these that have been confirmed as illegal immigrants.”

The Home Office has not yet released any details of what its van campaign achieved.

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