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9 Aug, 2013 14:28

‘Racist slogans’: UK watchdog to investigate ‘go home’ anti-immigrant campaign

‘Racist slogans’: UK watchdog to investigate ‘go home’ anti-immigrant campaign

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority confirmed on Thursday that it would investigate the Home Office’s ‘Go Home’ van campaign targeted at illegal immigrants amid repeated complaints to the watchdog that it echoed racist slogans.

The regulator stated that some 60 complaints had been made about the “Go Home or Face Arrest” billboard campaign by members of the public who had voiced concern that the messages placed on vans circling around the capital breached the UK advertising standards code – and was both offensive and irresponsible.

Complaints stated they were “reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past.”

Some members of the public also stated that the claim stamped across the side of the van that “106 arrests last week made in your area” was completely misleading.  

"They've also challenged whether it is misleading because it implies arrest is the automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission,”
said the ASA.

“We will publish our findings in due course.”

The vans bearing the billboards have been targeted at people residing in the UK illegally. Vans carrying the billboards were posted to drive through six London boroughs as part of a ‘pilot’ scheme. The Home Office has been debating whether to expand the project nationwide, claiming it to have been successful in the boroughs in which it had been tested for a week, for the first time towards the end of July.

The scheme had been criticized by the Liberal Democrat party, with its leader – Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – stating that the campaign is not a “clever” way to handle the concern over illegal immigration. Civil rights campaign group Liberty has also spoken out against it, with business secretary Vince Cable, calling it “stupid” and “offensive.”

Human rights organizations fear that it could contribute to a climate of fear and increased racial tensions.

“The Home Office is bound by a positive duty under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations…this campaign will generate hostility and intolerance in our communities,” said Amnesty International in a letter published in The Guardian on Thursday.

A crackdown on immigration in the UK has been on the rise since the beginning of the year, with the introduction of a new citizenship test which included many cultural questions, while overlooking a lot of practical issues.

Hype in the British media and political rhetoric condemning ‘health tourism’ (an influx of foreigners wanting to use Britain’s free National Health Service) has intensified immigration fears, which were stoked after UK Independence Party (UKIP) local election success in May: the party is notorious for its hard line on the subject and other parties quickly followed suit.

Predictions surfaced saying that hundreds of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians will come to the UK for work after immigration restrictions are lifted at the end of the year, giving rise to discussions about an ‘entry fee’ to the country. In January, a potential ‘negative’ advertising campaign was also discussed to dissuade potential immigrants from the countries entering the UK.