Negative reactions to Home Office billboard plans emerge

23 Jul 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The Home Office has announced that it plans to drive vans through certain London boroughs with billboards on them advising illegal immigrants to leave the country.

The vans are set to drive through Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Ealing, Brent and Redbridge. They will carry the message that any migrants in the UK illegally should 'go home or face arrest' and will feature a text number that people can contact in order to arrange their return to their legal country of domicile.

While the scheme could save money if it succeeds in encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country (forcibly removing someone costs around £15,000, compared to £10,000 under this scheme) there are broad concerns that intensive damage could be done to communities and migrant relations.

Muhammed Butt, Brent Council Leader, has said that the plans left him “absolutely horrified”. He warned that they risk driving illegal immigrants “underground” when they can be some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

Speaking to BBC London 94.9, Mr Butt added: "I was absolutely horrified to find that Brent had been chosen and we hadn't been consulted. In a diverse borough like Brent when 65 per cent of the population is from an immigrant background it's just a totally divisive policy.

"It just shows what contempt national government has for local government and we have to face all the decisions made by them and they're giving us no support to move forward."

The government has been criticised for its approach to immigration in the past with many suggesting that it is giving out the impression that Britain's doors are closed. While this latest scheme focuses on illegal immigrants there is still concern that it will have a negative impact on the way in which people view all migrants.

Mark Harper, UK immigration minister, put forward the government's view on the matter: “This pilot is just another part of the reforms of the immigration system that have cut out abuse and seen net migration drop to its lowest levels in nearly a decade.

“The Immigration Bill being introduced later this year will build on this work by restricting illegal migrants' access to benefits and services.”