The anti-racist vans: Campaigners fight back with mobile Home Office attack ads
A van attacking the Home Office for stirring up racial tension were seen around London today, in a rebuff to the government's so-called 'racist vans'.
The stunt came after Home Office vans emblazoned with the slogan "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest" were driven around certain London boroughs in a pilot for a potential nationwide scheme.
Today, civil liberties group Liberty sent a van around the capital attacking the Home Office for the 'dog whistle' nature of the campaign.
"No-one opposes fair immigration rules, but that doesn’t require polarising publicity stunts which fuel fear and intimidate vulnerable communities, poisoning delicate race relations," Liberty policy director Isabella Sankey said.
"For years, dog whistle press releases have spewed from the Home Office like summer wedding confetti, leaving this important area of public policy in disarray."
Many campaigners and Twitter users were outraged by the vans – particularly the use of the phrase 'go home', which they say echoes National Front slogans from the 1970s.
Liberty believes the phrase may contravene the Equalities Act.
The Liberty van came emblazoned with the slogan: "Stirring up tension and division in the UK illegally? Home Office, think again."
It circled the Home Office and Westminster this morning before heading to Kensal Green and Walthamstow, two of the boroughs targeted for the pilot scheme last month.
Critics of the Home Office vans have been very diverse, with even hardline figures on immigration like Nigel Farage raising concerns about the tone of the message.
The Liberty stunt comes amid continued spot-checks of people's immigration status at Tube stations by the UK Border Agency (UBKA).
Liberty has raised questions about the legal status of the spot-checks and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (ECHR) is conducting an inquiry.
UKBA officers are allowed to enter into 'consensual' conversations with potential immigration offender but members of the public are under no obligation to answer their questions.
Liberty and pressure group Migrants Rights are collecting details from people who have been stopped by UKBA officers with an eye to a potential legal challenge.