Council leader 'horrified' by UK immigration advertising campaign

The leader of a local council in London has said he is 'horrified' by the Home Office's decision to pay for mobile advertising boards to be driven around his borough warning illegal immigrants that they should 'go home or face arrest'.

The pilot scheme was launched on 22nd July 2013. Vans displaying large advertising boards are being driven around six boroughs of London in an attempt to persuade illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily.

The six boroughs are Hounslow, Ealing, Brent in West London, Barnet in North London and Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge in East London. The six were chosen because they had 'either significantly higher or below average numbers of voluntary returns, meaning that the success of the pilot can be assessed'.

A 'cost effective way to remove illegal immigrants'

The UK's immigration ministers Mark Harper said that the scheme was being introduced because getting people to leave the country voluntarily is 'the most cost effective way to remove illegal immigrants and save the taxpayer money'.

The vans display the following message 'In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice and help with travel documents'.

The Home Office issued a statement attributed to Mr Harper which read 'We are making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK.
'But there is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs. Help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily.'

An act of desperation which will drive people underground

But the leader of Brent Council, Councillor Muhammed Butt said that the scheme was 'an act of desperation' which would 'just drive people underground'. Mr Butt said that the Home Office should instead focus on processing people's asylum and citizenship applications. He told a London radio show that his council had not been consulted before being chosen as one of the six pilot areas.

Mr Butt told BBC Radio London 'I was absolutely horrified to find that Brent had been chosen and we hadn't been consulted. In a diverse borough like Brent, when 65% of the population is from an immigrant background, it's just a totally divisive policy'.

Mr Butt said that many applicants wait for a long time for their immigration applications to be processed 'So, whose fault is it?' he asked. 'Is it the immigrants who've applied and their cases are not being processed?'

Over 500,000 immigration cases awaiting resolution

On 13th July 2013, the UK House of Commons' Home Affairs Committee issued a report saying that there are currently over 500,000 UK immigration cases awaiting resolution.

However, the people who are being targeted by this campaign are illegal immigrants and are thus unlikely to be waiting for any Home Office decisions. Illegal immigrants in the UK fall largely into three main categories.

    People who entered the country illegally, often in the back of lorries smuggled by people smugglers and have no visa, and often no passport
  • People who entered the country legally, with visas such as Tier 4 student visas or on visitor visas but failed to leave when their visa expired or their right to remain in the country was revoked.
  • People who have applied for asylum or indefinite leave to remain but have been refused leave. They may have been ordered to leave the country but failed to do so.

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