HOME OFFICE TOOL: A "go home" van on a mission (PA)
ELEVEN PEOPLE have departed from British shores since the end of the controversial “go home” vans campaign, according to the Home Office.
The month-long pilot scheme that saw vehicles driving through London with posters telling people “go home or face arrest” took place in the summer, but drew widespread criticism from politicians, activists and rights campaigners.
The Advertising Standards Agency also found the campaign to be “misleading” because of its use of arrest statistics and banned the posters from being shown again.
The Home Office was defiant in the face of severe criticism, yet Home Secretary Theresa May recently told MPs that its approach had been a mistake and was “too blunt an instrument”.
Having been under pressure to release its results of the pilot scheme, the Home Office said 11 voluntary departures “can be directly attributed” to the vans, while 60 immigrants left in response to the wider campaign dubbed Operation Vaken.
Immigration minister Mark Harper said in a written statement that an additional 65 cases “are currently being progressed towards departure”.
He added that the government “will continue to enforce the immigration rules and promote voluntary departure schemes to those who have no right to be in the UK”.
When the “go home” vans were first driven through the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow, Business Secretary Vince Cable slammed them as “stupid and offensive”.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called them “pointless”, while Labour peer Doreen Lawrence said they could encourage profiling on the basis of skin colour.
The pilot vans campaign cost the government £9,740, and Harper claimed the voluntary departures represent a saving of £830,000.
However, the findings of the pilot scheme "proves this was never a serious policy to deal with illegal immigration," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.
She said: "It was a disgraceful personal error of judgement by Theresa May - she signed off the vans, the slogans and the funding and defended them for months before her recent u-turn.
"At the same time the number of people who were refused entry and then deported has fallen by 46.4 per cent, its clear this is a government is failing on the fundamentals of illegal immigration."