Home Office under investigation after hard-line immigration drive
The Home Office is facing numerous investigations into its conduct after a spate of hard-line initiatives against immigration raised concerns about its conduct.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this morning announced it would launch an investigation into the Home Office's mobile vans calling on illegal immigrants to "go home".
That investigation will run at the same time as an Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry into UK Border Agency (UKBA) spot-checks at British tube stations, after fears were raised that officers were using racial profiling to select who to speak to about their immigration status.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) also announced this morning that t would launch an investigation into the department's failure to respond to freedom of information requests in the legally-mandated maximum time limit.
The Home Office's mobile vans were branded racist after they used the phrase "go home" – a slogan commonly associated with the National Front in the seventies.
They united figures on the right and left in outrage when the pilot scheme was launched in handpicked London boroughs.
"Complainants have expressed concerns that the ad, 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," an ASA spokesman told Politics.co.uk.
"Separately, some complainants have challenged whether the claim '106 ARRESTS LAST WEEK IN YOUR AREA' is misleading. They’ve also challenged whether it is misleading because it implies arrest is the automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission."
The ads prompted 60 complaints to the ASA.
That scheme may still go nationwide but the critical reception it was been met with makes that eventuality less likely.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles recently raised doubts over the vans in an interview on LBC, saying he would "take a lot of convincing" before the trial was rolled out across the UK.
Civil liberties group Liberty claimed the vans contravened the Equalities Act.
"This is another embarrassing blow to a government which continues to fail to deal with immigration," shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant.
"With more people absconding at the border and fewer illegal immigrants being returned, David Cameron and Theresa May can't even get the basics right, stumbling from one shambles to another.
"You've got to question the government's competence. We need effective action on immigration not offensive stunts."
Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner's Office said it had received a "significant number of complaints" about the Home Office's refusal to comply to freedom of information legislation and reply to requests within 20 working days.
It will now monitor the Home Office for a three month period. Failure to show signs of improvement during this period may result in enforcement action.
"We hope that these authorities can make the improvements the public has a right to expect," information commissioner Christopher Graham said.
"We should not have to order authorities to respond to requests in time."