‘Go home’ illegal immigrant vans in Barking and Dagenham banned by advertising watchdog

One of the vans spotted during the pilot outside Seven Kings train station in Redbridge. Picture: Al

One of the vans spotted during the pilot outside Seven Kings train station in Redbridge. Picture: Alain Tolhurst - Credit: Archant

A charity chief has said she is “delighted” that government vans emblazoned with the slogan “go home or face arrest” that were driven around Barking and Dagenham have been banned by an advertising watchdog.

The vans were part of a pilot project by the Home Office aimed at encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country.

More than 200 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the vans, leading the watchdog to ban them after an investigation.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, which works in the borough, said: “We are delighted that the ASA has ruled that the vans were inaccurate.

“The strength of public opinion shows that people are concerned about it. It’s reminiscent of the 1970s slogans tell people who were not white British to leave.”

The vans were piloted in six London boroughs, including Barking and Dagenham, for a week in late July resulting in 224 complaints.

The poster featured a close-up image of someone holding a pair of handcuffs wearing a uniform with a “Home Office” badge and a box stating: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”

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It also stated that 106 people had been arrested during the last week “your area” which the ASA said was not accurate to the boroughs it was driven in and the size of the print was too small.

The ASA said: “We told the Home Office to ensure that in future they held adequate substantiation for their advertising claims and that qualifications were presented clearly.”

Most of the complaints, including one from RAMFEL, were that the phrase “go home” was offensive and would incite racial hatred.

Ms Chadha said: “It divides communities and scares people. It suggests that immigration is a bigger issue than it actually is.”

However, the ASA cleared the campaign over such complaints and said that it would not incite racial tensions and was not related to the immigrants’ race or ethnicity.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We have always been clear that this campaign was about encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily and was not targeted at particular racial or ethnic groups.”