UK Home Office backs down over ‘go home’ vans after legal complaint


The Home Office has backed down in a legal battle over its vans warning illegal immigrants to go home.

Ministers were threatened with court action by two clients of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, who argued the rhetoric on the vans breached the government’s duties on equality.

Following the legal complaint, the Home Office has agreed to consult with local communities before attempting to embark on such a campaign again.

According to the claimants, the government has accepted it would in future need to have “due regard” to its duties under the Equalities Act, including the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment based on race and religion, as well as to foster good relations between people from different racial and religious groups.

The vans have been criticised by campaigners for causing a “climate of fear”, with Vince Cable, the business secretary, condemning them as “stupid and offensive”. Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence party and a critic of uncontrolled immigration, branded it a “nasty” campaign.

There has also been an angry reaction to immigration spot checks, especially the government’s decision to issue updates on how many “immigration offenders” had been arrested, apparently prejudging their guilt.

A spokesman for Deighton Pierce Glynn, solicitors for the claimants, said: “Due to the inflammatory nature of the campaign, as voiced by several prominent public figures, including Vince Cable MP and the leaders of Brent and Redbridge councils, the due regard duty was high, and a consultation should have been carried out before the pilot began so that the government could have properly considered the effect of the campaign before deciding whether to go ahead.”

Raymond Murray, one of the claimants in the case, said he was “very pleased the Home Office has seen sense and will do things differently in future. Hopefully they’ll never try a stunt like this again.”

The East London forum said the vans and subsequent immigration spot checks had “caused much distress and upset to a cross-section of communities locally and nationally. The fact that the campaign has also been commented on extensively in the international media, suggests that this has tarnished the UK’s longstanding reputation as a tolerant and welcoming society.”

Shortly after the vans were launched in six London boroughs, Downing Street claimed they had been successful. However, ministers have still not taken a decision on whether it will be extended to other parts of the country.

The Home Office declined to comment.