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Barking charity executive lambasts Home Office scheme aimed at illegal immigrants

PUBLISHED: 08:03 31 July 2013

A van is being driven around Barking and Dagenham to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the UK voluntarily. Picture supplied by the Home Office.

A van is being driven around Barking and Dagenham to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the UK voluntarily. Picture supplied by the Home Office.

Archant

The chief executive of a refugee charity says she was “disgusted” by a Home Office campaign to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the country.

Rita Chadha, at the RAMFEL CentreRita Chadha, at the RAMFEL Centre

Barking and Dagenham was one of six London boroughs chosen for the pilot project last week that saw vans with giant billboards driven around London featuring the slogan ‘go home or face arrest’.

Rita Chadha from the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, that has an office in the Ripple Centre, Barking, said: “We thought it was a joke at first.

“It gives the worst type of impression. Barking and Dagenham doesn’t have the same difficulties as other London boroughs and this just plays on the myth that everyone here is racist.

“The signs are in English so the people the Home Office want to target probably are not going to notice it. If they were genuine they would put it in other languages. It is just a stunt.”

She added: “It is totally insensitive to people’s situations. Most of the problems around immigration are because of the Government’s gross incompetence and misadministration.”

A Home Office spokesman told the Post the borough was chosen for the pilot because it had a higher than average number of immigrants who have used similar schemes in the past although he declined to reveal the ­figures.

He also said they had “received a number of positive responses” to the billboard pilot which ended on Sunday and the government would evaluate the results before deciding whether it would be expanded to other parts of the country. The project comes as a committee of MPs slammed government immigration figures as “little more than a guess” ­because they were based on random interviews at airports.

As well as Barking and Dagenham, a van was driven around Hounslow, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge.

A Barking and Dagenham council spokesman said there had been given no prior warning of the scheme.

He said: “The first we heard about it was Monday evening. Even the police didn’t know about it.”

Ms Chadha chided councillors for failing to criticise the scheme and said she had sent an email out to them all.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said officers were removing people with no right to be in the UK.

He said: “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.”


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