End the Home Office’s “Go Home” Hate Campaign

Our campaign to scrap the Home Office’s “Go Home” message to refugees, ran in 2013, and was successful in ending the racist go home vans and posters by the UK government to force refugees to return to the persecution that they fled.

The posters displayed in the Home Office reporting centre in Brand Street in Glasgow asked “Is life here hard? Going home is simple” and the stickers on the seats with the text “Ask about going home".

The material displayed was shocking. Giant posters depict a destitute refugee sleeping rough and the headline: 

"Is life here hard? Going home is simple".

There was a picture of an airplane and the line:

"The plane can take you home. We can book the tickets."

Even the chair you sat down upon bore advice:

"Ask about going home", reinforcing the hostile message to asylum seekers who report there every day or once a week.

The Home Office claimed,

"These posters are designed to ensure people know that we can provide sensitive advice and assistance to help them return home with dignity." 

"Go Home" is a well-known racist taunt that has been used for decades in this country by fascists and racists against those of us from immigrant communities. That a government agency should decide to take up the same racist and xenophobic refrain while "processing" would-be refugees to this country, is shameful and deeply offensive. 

If there were a parallel campaign telling patients in Accident and Emergency departments not to turn up for treatment you can imagine the public outcry. The "Go Home" poster campaign exposes the Border Agency's attitude and gives us a small idea of what refugees in this country go through when they seek asylum.

In a letter to The Scotsman, senior Kirk minister, the Rev Dr Iain Whyte, a supporter of our charity, wrote: 

“To bully vulnerable people by this poster campaign is an appalling violation of human rights. To do so in an area which is closed to the public is an insidious, covert act.”

Dr Whyte called on the Scottish Government to make “strong representations” to the Home Office to have the posters removed.

Claiming refuge is a human right. The reality is that refugees coming into the UK are caught up in the incompetent bureaucratic mess that is the British asylum system - a system that in November 2012 failed to deal with its asylum backlog, and left more than 100,000 items of post relating to asylum cases unopened. The asylum seekers concerned were left in limbo for an average of 7 years.

Positive Action in Housing believes that the government's "Go Home" poster campaign is nothing more than a racist and xenophobic "Hate Campaign" designed to harass and wear down those from refugee communities and undermine the excellent anti-racist work already being done in Scotland.

Almost weekly the government produced some new way of playing the race card, designed to show them as being tougher and nastier on immigration and asylum than any other political party. They are winding up to potentially the nastiest election campaign we have seen for a long time if not ever. 

On Monday 9th September, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm, we're gathering at the Border Agency's offices on Brand Street, Govan, to protest. I'll be speaking, along with Margaret Woods of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, MPs, MSPs, Councillors and faith group leaders.

We have a proud record of standing up against racism in Glasgow and we will not let this latest outrage pass.


The "Go Home" vans were part of a controversial 2013 advertising campaign by the British Home Office in which advertising vans with slogans recommending that illegal immigrants should "go home or face arrest" were sent to tour areas with high immigrant populations.

The hypothesis of the operation was that people who did not have leave to remain would voluntarily depart if "a near and present" danger, such as being arrested, was made apparent. The pilot programme, which had the internal codename 'Operation Vaken', ran in the six London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hounslow, and Redbridge from 22 July to 22 August 2013, and was part of the Home Office hostile environment policy.  In October 2013, the evaluation report stated that 60 voluntary departures were believed to be directly related to 'Operation Vaken' and 65 more cases were "currently being progressed to departure."

British politicians including Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Eric Pickles expressed concerns about the campaign. Nigel Farage described the advertisements as "unpleasant." Yvette Cooper compared the slogans on the vans with slogans used by the National Front in the 1970s and the campaign was described by Diane Abbott as an example of dog-whistle politics, stating that "It is not so much dog-whistle politics as an entire brass band ... It is akin to scrawling 'Paki go home' on the side of buildings. I don't believe this policy is going to achieve anything besides stoking fear and resentment."

The controversial campaign in Scotland that told asylum-seekers how easy it is to go home has been scrapped by the Government.

The move to end the pilot project in a public area of the agency's main inquiries centre for refugees in Glasgow came after a campaign by Positive Action in Housing to have it scrapped. 

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said that he welcomed the decision that the posters would not be repeated.

He said: "I am pleased we can now put this pilot behind us."

The posters, which read: "Is life here hard? Going home is simple", before adding "Ask about going home," will also be removed from display in the UK Border Agency (UKBA) offices London.

Critics insisted "go home" was a well-known racist taunt that had no place in a government message.

SNP MP Pete Wishart said that the poster campaign had been "xenophobic and reminiscent of racist slogans from the 1970s". He added: "I wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May this summer and cited the impact it would have on our excellent community relations and the anxiety it might cause to some of our minority communities.

"After all, these posters were being used in an immigration centre used by asylum seekers.

"It seems the UKBA have admitted defeat, and I hope we never see something like it again."

In a written ministerial state-ment yesterday immigration minister Mark Harper said that there were no plans to repeat the use of the posters.

James Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart said: "I'm delighted to hear that the Westminster Government has at last seen sense.

"If this now means that those people who have to attend the Brand Street immigration centre no longer have to put up with such insulting messages then I'm sure most people in Scotland will be delighted."

Last week the Coalition also announced there would be no repeat of the vans which carried almost the same message - warning illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest".

Mrs May admitted that the vehicles had been "too blunt an instrument".

The Home Office has said that the two schemes were entirely separate and that both had to be evaluated separately.

Coalition sources blamed bureaucracy for the delay in scrapping the poster campaign.

However, it is understood that the decision to remove them has been taken even though their evaluation has yet to be completed.

The Coalition also admitted yesterday that just 11 immigrants volunteered to leave the UK after seeing the "go home" vans.

An official report revealed that the phone number used in the near £10,000 campaign, dubbed Operation Vaken, received a total of 1561 text messages, 1,034 hoaxes.

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "The evaluation proves this was never a serious policy to deal with illegal immigration which has been getting worse.

"It was a disgraceful personal error of judgment by Theresa May - she signed off the vans, the slogans and the funding and defended them for months before her recent U-turn."

Mr Harper said the 60 people who left - 11 who saw the vans and 49 who left after hearing about the van campaign - will save the taxpayer £830,000, based on the average £15,000 cost of an enforced removal.

This motion was put forward in October 2013:

Early Day Motion 488: Home Office Returns Pilot Scheme
That this House deplores the recent Home Office poster campaign running in UK Border Agency offices in Glasgow and London advising people seeking advice to 'go home'; believes that this poster campaign is an insensitive and ineffective way of dealing with illegal immigration and is unlikely to encourage voluntary returns; notes that this is not the only instance of this type of campaign following the heavily criticised vans carrying similar messages; further notes that charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have expressed their concerns about the campaign; further believes that this scheme is likely to undermine its stated aims whilst creating an environment of fear; and urges the Government to halt immediately this pilot scheme and to work with local authorities, community groups and NGOs to encourage voluntary returns in a more effective, liberal, sympathetic and humane manner.

 Sponsors: Huppert, Julian / Corbyn, Jeremy / Hancock, Mike / McDonnell, John / Shannon, Jim   -   House of Commons: 09.09.2013

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