'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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map