Billboards in United Kingdom lay it on the line for illegal immigrants: 'Go home or face arrest'
Harsh approach met with growing criticism; some say this won't solve the issue
The message is blunt and direct. Mobile billboards calling upon illegal immigrants to leave the United Kingdom are seen on city streets. Predictably, they have drawn strong criticism by many. While campaign backers have hailed the initiative as an "alternative to arrest," critics decry the adverts as outright "intimidation."
"In the U.K. illegally? Go home or face arrest," the full message reads. A hotline number is also provided where illegal immigrants can receive help and advice with travel documents.
"In the U.K. illegally? Go home or face arrest," the full message reads. A hotline number is also provided where illegal immigrants can receive help and advice with travel documents. Leaflets and posters are also planned to be distributed in tandem with the billboard vans in the targeted boroughs.
British Immigration Minister Mark Harper has described the new initiative as "an alternative to being led away in handcuffs.
"Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK," Harper says. He says that the mobile billboards are part of a new push to make it more difficult for people to live and work in the U.K. illegally. According to U.K. government figures, 28,000 illegal immigrants voluntarily left the U.K. last year.
There are a number of reforms are set to be introduced to combat illegal immigration in the U.K, including a $4,600 bond which selected visitors from certain countries will be required to pay upon applying for a British visa. The bond will be returned to visitors from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana when they leave the country. This policy will come into effect this November of this year.
Debate has raged in U.K. society, with many politicians up in arms over what they have condemned as "intimidation" from the British government.
"I fear that the only impact of this deeply divisive form of politics will be to create tension and mistrust to anyone who looks and sounds foreign," Ex-minister Sarah Teather said, as she attacked the Home Office to reporters. She described the billboards as "nothing less than straightforward intimidation."
In response, Minister Baroness Hanham defended the billboards in the House of Lords, maintaining that they tackle "the reality of the situation that there are people coming here without jobs and without accommodation."
The vans are set to be deployed in some of London's more diverse boroughs, including Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge. These communities were chosen as they have a below average number of voluntary returns according to the Home Office.
Counselor in the London borough of Brent, Muhhamed Butt warns that these measures are likely to backfire on the Home Office and push illegal immigrants "further underground.
"I just cannot see how this trick they are trying to use to flush out people is going to work," Butt said. "There is bound to be some impact on the community where people feel stigmatized, isolated and divided."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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