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‘Go home or face arrest’ van driving around Redbridge is a ‘political stunt’

PUBLISHED: 10:54 02 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:56 02 August 2013

The van being used as part of the Home Office project

The van being used as part of the Home Office project

Archant

A government campaign piloted in Redbridge has been dismissed as a political stunt by a leading charity this week.

A van with the slogan “Go home or face arrest” has been driving around Redbridge, as well as five other boroughs, as part of the pilot to encourage illegal migrants to quit the UK.

Now the government is being taken to court by clients at the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, after the campaign caused outrage in communities.

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the forum, in High Road, Ilford, said: “It’s a travesty of justice, it incites racial hatred and it inflames community tension. It’s just going to scare people to think that immigration is a huge problem when it’s not.”

One of the clients at the forum has issued a “letter before claim”, which means they are putting the government on notice that it is being taken to court.

In a column for a national newspaper immigration minister Mark Harper said: “It is not racist to ask people here illegally to leave Britain. It is telling them to comply with the law.”

Ms Chadha said: “The vans are reminiscent of the 1960s when public leaflets were telling those who were foreign that they were not welcome or to go back home.

“The billboards are in English so who are they really targeting? It’s just trying to score political point with peoples’ lives.”

One migrant, Tekalit Berhane, who fled from Eritrea, said he has been waiting eight years for the Home Office to make a decision on his case and is forbidden from working.

Mr Berhane, 31, of Redbridge, said: “I didn’t come here to play, I have serious problems back home. This campaign makes people worry about people like me”

He said the vans were “not the best way to help people go home” and added: “The Home Office should look at the time it takes to sort applications. I want to work and pay taxes but I can’t.”

The Home Office said voluntary returns are “the most cost-effective way of removing illegal immigrants”.

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