- LIVE TV
Border officials have come up with a new way of encouraging illegal immigrants to go home: asking them nicely.
A £10,000 advertising campaign designed to tempt illegal immigrants to leave the UK without facing arrest and deportation was launched yesterday – and immediately branded ‘breathtakingly stupid’.
It is the latest attempt by the Home Office to target nearly 200,000 people thought to have stayed in Britain illegally after their visas expired.
Ministers said the campaign offered migrants an ‘alternative to being led away in handcuffs’.
The advert states: ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.’
Vans carrying campaign posters will be driven around London over the coming days, carrying a warning message for illegal migrants.
The advert calls for illegal immigrants to text ‘HOME’ to 78070. If they do, the Home Office will give them free advice on how to go home, and help getting a new passport if they need one.
However the advert also comes with a warning – that anyone who refuses to go will face arrest.
Officials said the campaign, which cost £10,000, would pay for itself if just one migrant returned home.
But Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: ‘The breathtaking stupidity of the people in charge of our immigration system knows no bounds.
‘If they still made Monty Python, then Minister for Silly Walks would be proposing this.
‘It actually is an indication of a weakness that we’re having to implore people to leave the country. It’s pathetic. The fact is there is absolutely zero effort made by law enforcement agencies to get people out when they have come in to the country unlawfully.’
‘It’s also a measure of their desperation.’
In addition to the advert, leaflets carrying the same message will be left in newsagents, money transfer shops and internet cafes migrants are known to go to, and adverts placed in local newspapers.
Two vans will be driven around Hounslow, Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge this week showing the advert and displaying figures on how many illegal migrants have been arrested recently in each area.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: ‘We are making it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally. Every single day our enforcement officers are arresting, detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK.
‘But there is an alternative to being led away in handcuffs. Help and advice can be provided to those who cooperate and return home voluntarily.
‘This pilot 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. The Immigration Bill being introduced later this year will build on this work by restricting illegal migrants’ access to benefits and services.’
More than 28,000 illegal migrants returned home voluntarily last year – but official estimates suggest there are nearly 200,000 illegal overstayers still in the country after their visas have expired.
– Daily Mail