The Redbridge Equalities and Community Council has slammed a government scheme featuring a van calling for illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest".

The one-week pilot project ended at the weekend and featured the vehicle with a large poster urging those in the UK without permission to return to their country of origin.

It was driven through six London boroughs, including Redbridge, at a reported cost of £10,000.

In a strongly worded statement, equalities group chair Diana Neslen said the van would "only stir up hatred, suspicion and division between different communities and will undermine community cohesion".

Her comments come after the leaders of the three main parties in Redbridge called on the scheme to be scraped.

Meanwhile Number 10 has hit back and said the scheme had been effective, but it was unable to provide any figures at this early stage.

Ms Neslen said in her statement: "We agree with Redbridge Council that this action undermines the relationship between central and local government...

"It creates a climate of fear and intimidation for vulnerable people."

She added: "We hoped the days when Go Home was scrawled on the walls of immigrants’ homes had passed. 

"Now we see it officially paraded on a Home Office van in the street."

Conservative council leader Keith Prince, Cllr Ian Bond of the Liberal Democrats and Labour group leader Jas Athwal said in their joint statement: "We were neither informed nor consulted about this Home Office initiative.

"We have no information from the Home Office about why they have chosen Redbridge to carry out such an unusual scheme, or what the purpose is."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Voluntary returns are the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants and save the taxpayer money. This pilot builds on the government’s current work on voluntary returns, which saw more than 28,000 voluntary departures last year.

“This work 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.”