Controversial vans telling London’s illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest” will not be rolled out across the UK, it’s been confirmed.
Home secretary Theresa May told MPs they were a “blunt instrument” and the pilot study would not be extended beyond London.
The project saw vans carrying the slogan drive round ethnically diverse areas of London, where it was believed large numbers of illegal immigrants live and work.
May told the UK’s parliament increased immigration enforcement had seen around 4,000 people leave the country.
But the van campaign drew some stinging criticism. Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, a member of the coalition government, called it stupid while the UK Independence Party, an anti-Europe movement, said it was reminiscent of a fascist dictatorship.
Meanwhhile the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency said the arrest statistics quoted beneath the slogan were misleading. But, it added, the adverts were not offensive or irresponsible.
May, speaking in the House of Commons said: “I have looked at the interim evaluation of the vans. Some returns were achieved, but politicians should be willing to step up to the plate and say when they think that something has not been such a good idea, and I think that they were too blunt an instrument.
“But we should also be absolutely clear about what used to happen under the last Government. If somebody came to the end of their visa, no one got in touch with them to say that they should no longer be staying here in the UK. That is now happening as a result of the changes to immigration enforcement.
“As a result of that work, during the last year some 4,000 people have left the UK. It is absolutely right that we do that, but we will not be rolling out the vans.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This is not just about a policy that is ineffective and a blunt instrument. The Home Secretary sent the van around four London boroughs with the highest proportion of ethnic minority British citizens.
“One Brent resident—a British citizen—said: ‘As a child in the 1970s with migrant parents I remember how ‘go home’ was shouted at us in the streets and graffitied on walls. One of my earliest memories is of the panic I felt when hearing my parents discussing in hushed tones whether we would indeed have to ‘go home’, as we watched the National Front march on TV’.
“The Home Secretary agreed to that slogan. She agreed to send it round communities whose parents heard it from the National Front in the 1970s, and whose British citizens work in our public services, build our businesses, and fight in our armed forces today. She signed off and defended that policy. She should be better than that, and I hope she is ashamed of what she did.”