July 29, 2013
The British government says that a controversial billboard scheme commanding illegal immigrants to go home or face arrest is “working,” adding that the campaign – termed ‘stupid and offensive’- could be extended nationwide.
A spokesperson for UK PM David Cameron stated on Monday that “this pilot that is currently running is about targeting [illegal immigrants] and it is working.”
Downing Street claims that employing vans carrying the billboards with ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest’ across them is more effective than seeking immigrants out, arresting them and subsequently removing them by force.
While claiming that the scheme has already made an impact, the Home Office would not give figures on immigrant numbers who had been responsive to the posters, saying that the week-long trial had only reached its conclusion of Sunday so it was impossible to release official statistics at this point. They added that they were “looking at what they can take forward.”
British Immigration Minister Mark Harper had described the new initiative as “an alternative to being led away in handcuffs” last week.
The signs have been used as part of the preliminary scheme alongside the distribution of leaflets, being driven around six London boroughs on two trucks over the course of a week.
The billboards also provide immigrants with a number to SMS if they require support, information or documentation. Overall, the campaign costs Britons around 10,000 pounds ($15,300).
UK Business Secretary Vince Cable condemned the campaign on Sunday as “stupid and offensive” on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, suggesting that its continuation was unlikely.
Don Flynn of Migrants Rights Network said on Monday that Cable’s comments were “further evidence that exploiting public anxiety is not the simple route to instant popularity,” while pointing out that the trucks toured areas “where Conservative election strategists think they are susceptible to losing votes to [UK Independence Party] UKIP.” He added that ironically, the Home Office was now tasked with fending off complaints against themselves through British watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority.
Even Conservative London Mayor Boris John son conceded “I suppose it could have been more gently drafted” in a Sunday Telegraph column, despite defending the scheme overall, saying “Illegal immigrants have every opportunity to make their case to remain in Britain.”