'The UK Hunger Games': Home Office anti-immigration tweets spark Twitter backlash

Crackdown against suspected offenders causes outrage

A high-profile Home Office crackdown on illegal immigration has sparked a backlash of criticism accusing it of racial profiling, contempt of court and using the Twitter hashtag #immigrationoffenders to instigate the “UK Hunger Games”.

The official Twitter profile @ukhomeoffice posted pictures as it arrested suspects in connection with possible immigration offences, showing people with their faces pixillated being taken away by officers.

While most of the posts were careful not to jeopardise potential legal action by saying the arrested people were guilty, at least one did not, linking to a Home Office website page describing all 139 suspects as “immigration offenders”.

Users responded on Twitter by accusing the government of publicising the crackdown as a form of “dystopian” entertainment, with comedian David Schneider sarcastically saying: “I'm enjoying @ukhomeoffice's tweeting of the preliminary rounds of the UK Hunger Games.”

The Hunger Games is a dystopian series of novels, made into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence, where youths from the lower strata of society are rounded up and made to fight for the entertainment of the wider public.

Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker wrote: “Hey @ukhomeoffice why not make your tweet-a-long-a-stormtroop gallery of brown folk thrown in vans even more dystopian by using cattleprods?”

And David Allen Green, legal correspondent for the New Statesman, said: “For the @ukhomeoffice to say those arrested are already #immigrationoffenders is to prejudge their cases and possibly contempt.”

Anger, particularly at the possible use of racial profiling in the crackdown, was not limited to the social media platform.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it was looking into a whole range of practices that make up the anti-immigration campaign.

A spokesman said: "The Commission is writing today to the Home Office about these reported operations, confirming that it will be examining the powers used and the justification for them, in order to assess whether unlawful discrimination took place.

“The letter will also ask questions about the extent to which the Home Office complied with its public sector equality duty when planning the recent advertising campaign targeted at illegal migration.”

Phil O'Shea, who witnessed one of the operations earlier this week in North London, told the Kilburn Times: “They appeared to be stopping and questioning every non-white person, many of whom were clearly ordinary Kensal Green residents going to work.”

The #immigrationoffenders campaign comes after criticism of the Home Office for its use of stop-and-search tactics, and of vans telling illegal immigrants to “go home”.

Writing in the Independent, Dave Garratt, the chief executive of charity Refugee Action, warned that the operations could “incite racial tensions”.

“Over the last few weeks we've seen some very visible signs of the Government's 'hostile environment' crusade. There have been vans out on the streets with threatening slogans and, reportedly, non-white people being visibly stopped and searched,” he wrote.

“The Home Office is responsible for community cohesion. Yet we are increasingly seeing what appears to be hostility towards non-white immigration, which will do nothing but incite racial tensions and divisions within otherwise rich and diverse communities.”

Championing the campaign on the Home Office website, Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “Today’s operations highlight the routine work we are carrying out every day to stamp out illegal working. We are sending a clear message to employers who choose to use illegal labour: we will find you and you will pay a heavy penalty.”

And a Home Office spokesman defended the tactics, saying: “We make no apology for enforcing our immigration laws and our officers carry out hundreds of operations like this every year around London. Where we find people who are in the UK illegally we will seek to remove them.”

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said: ”The Home Secretary said that it is unacceptable to stop someone simply on the basis of their ethnicity. Theresa May said that someone from an ethnic background was seven times more likely to be stopped than a white person, and she said that this was wrong and we supported her.

“We must now have immediate reassurance from the Home Secretary that this is the case for immigration enforcement too. With enforcement operations now under the direct control of the Home Office she must establish straight away whether the rules preventing racial profiling are being enforced.

”Intelligence-led operations to remove illegal immigrants are to be welcomed. Racial profiling is not.“

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor