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Advertising Standards Agency probes Home Office pilot scheme tackling illegal immigration in Barnet and other London boroughs
4:23pm Friday 9th August 2013 in News
An advertising watchdog is investigating claims a Home Office scheme targeting illegal immigrants “stirred up hatred” in boroughs it was piloted in – including Barnet.
Vans carrying billboards with the message: ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest’ were driven around six London boroughs for one week at the end of July.
The Advertising Standards Authority confirmed this week it had received 60 complaints about the billboards and was launching an investigation.
Opponents on Twitter dubbed the scheme “#RacistVan” and campaign group Liberty, as well as numerous Liberal Democrat politicians, criticised the tactic.
Barnet Council last week confirmed it had not been told the scheme would be piloted in the borough prior to the van’s arrival.
The adverts displayed a text hotline for free advice, and help with travel documents.
Posters and leaflets were also distributed in Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Brent, Redbridge and Barnet under the pilot.
An ASA spokesman said: “Complainants have expressed concerns that the advert, in particular the phrase “go home”, is offensive and irresponsible because it is reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past and could incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities."
The watchdog said it was also looking at whether the statement “106 arrests last week in your area”, which also appears on the billboard, is misleading.
The Home Office claims the pilot was a success but has not announced how many people left the country.
A spokesman confirmed the department is in contact with the Advertising Standards Authority and said it “will respond in due course”.
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