Mobile billboards calling on illegal immigrants to leave the UK have been criticized as a step too far by politicians. Campaign backers have hailed the initiative as an “alternative to arrest,” while critics decry the adverts as outright “intimidation.”
As part of a pilot scheme to help reduce illegal immigration in
Britain, vans with billboards emblazoned with the slogan “Go
home or face arrest” will be driven around London boroughs.
The message in full reads: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.” A hotline number is also shown where illegal immigrants may receive help and advice with travel documents. Leaflets and posters will be distributed in tandem with the billboard vans in the targeted boroughs.
British Immigration Minister Mark Harper has described the new initiative as “an alternative to being led away in handcuffs.”
“Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK,” said Harper, adding that the mobile billboards are part of a new push to make it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. According to UK government figures 28,000 illegal arrivals voluntarily left the UK last year.
In conjunction with the billboards numbers of reforms are set to be introduced to combat illegal immigration in the UK. They will include a $4,600 bond which selected visitors from certain countries will be required to pay upon applying for a British visa. The bond will be returned to visitors from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana when they leave the country.
The new policy will come into effect this November of this year.
The new measures have triggered debate in UK society with many politicians up in arms over what they have condemned as “intimidation” from the British government.
Ex-minister Sarah Teather attacked the Home Office, decrying the measures as "nothing less than straightforward intimidation.”
“I fear that the only impact of this deeply divisive form of politics will be to create tension and mistrust to anyone who looks and sounds foreign,” she told UK newspaper the Guardian.
Minister Baroness Hanham defended the measures on Wednesday in the House of Lords, maintaining that they tackle “the reality of the situation that there are people coming here without jobs and without accommodation."
The billboard vans will be deployed in some of London’s more diverse boroughs, including Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge. These communities were chosen because they have a below average number of voluntary returns according to the Home Office.
Muhhamed Butt, a counselor in the London borough of Brent, told RT said that the measures are likely to backfire on the Home Office and push illegal immigrants “further underground.”
“I just cannot see how this trick they are trying to use to flush out people is going to work,” Butt told RT. “There is bound to be some impact on the community where people feel stigmatized, isolated and divided.”
He went on to stress that there would be backlash that could result in illegal immigrants resorting to criminality.