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'Go home' van ban welcomed
Equality and migrant groups have welcomed the banning of controversial Home Office vans targeting illegal immigrants in Redbridge.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the vans, which passed through Redbridge in July bearing the message “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”, because they used misleading statistics.
They claimed that 106 illegal immigrants had been arrested last week “in your area”, but the figure was accurate for a large area of north London more than two weeks before the campaign.
The ASA also said there was nothing offensive or irresponsible about the message, which drew much criticism at the time for its similarity to racist messages aimed at immigrants in the past.
Rita Chadha, Chief Executive of Refugee and Migrant Forum East London (RAMFEL), said the decision has delighted the group, but she added that she disagreed with the fact that the message was deemed inoffensive.
“The fact that 224 people complained says that people did find it offensive, and definitely in Redbridge where so many people wrote to their councillors and MPs suggests that people were offended,” she said.
“We would like the government to be realistic about the issue of immigration and stop using it as a political volleyball.”
On whether the message was offensive the watchdog said in a report: “We concluded that the poster was unlikely to incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities.
“It was not irresponsible and did not contain anything which was likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.”
David Landau, a senior officer at the Redbridge Equalities & Community Council, said: “We were opposed to everything about the vans.
“We agree the statistics were very misleading. Suggesting that using a figure for wider London was accurate for Redbridge would create an atmosphere of people feeling that they were surrounded by lots and lots of illegal immigrants, which is of course untrue.
“We are very pleased and we hope the government won’t just amend it but that they’ll reconsider the whole operation.”
The Home Office has confirmed that the poster will not be used again in their current format.
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