The Home Office has been accused of hypocrisy after saying the message “go home” was an example of a racist hate crime, despite having previously emblazoned the same slogan on vans in a bid to encourage illegal migrants to leave the country.
In a video posted on Twitter by the department this week as part of a new campaign to encourage people to report hate crime, a young black man talks about the hate he receives from strangers online.
Babatunde Ogunsina aka Baba T, a blogger, says: “Nobody prepares you for the hate you get online. The hate you get from strangers, telling you to go back home or commenting on the colour of your skin. Can you imagine seeing those kinds of comments?
“Making racial comments online is a hate crime and I don’t think people realise that, and that is the scary part.”
Social media users quickly pointed out that “Go Home” vans were used by the Home Office as part of a controversial 2013 advertising campaign encouraging illegal immigrants to return to their home countries.
The campaign formed part of the “hostile environment”, and saw vehicles brandishing the slogan “go home or face arrest” sent to drive around areas with high immigrant populations.
One person wrote on Twitter: “The Home Office, which deported black British citizens and sent out ‘go home’ vans around London, are tweeting about being told to ‘go back home’ and hate crime. Sickening hypocrisy.”
Another said: “Extraordinary, more than a decade of (tax-funded) propaganda campaigns literally telling people to “go home” (posters, texts, go home vans, media staged immigration raids), now a Home Office anti hate crime campaign in which ‘go home’ features as an example of racist hate crime.”
A third social media user posted the message: “It’s bad when strangers on the internet tell you to ‘go home’. But it’s perfectly acceptable to slap it on the side of vans, right?”
Minnie Rahman, public affairs and campaigns manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “This is breathtaking hypocrisy from the Home Office – which not only sent ‘go home’ vans around the country but regularly targets people of colour via policies like Prevent and stop and search.
“The Home Office’s flagship ‘hostile environment’ itself has been proven by the courts to directly cause racial discrimination. If the government was serious about tackling hate crime, they would scrap the hostile environment and stop perpetuating racism.”
Shadow immigration minister Afzal Khan said: “The Home Office seem to have forgotten Theresa May’s infamous ‘go home’ vans. Labour called out these vans for their blunt racism at the time.”
It comes after a damning report from the United Nations found that hostile environment policies adopted by the government had entrenched racism and stoked xenophobic sentiment in the UK.
A Home Office Spokesperson said: “We are determined to raise awareness of hate crime and are taking robust action to tackle it.
“Our refreshed Hate Crime Action Plan focuses on five priority areas, to prevent crimes happening in the first place through education, funding projects to tackle issues in communities, increase reporting, improve support for victims and increasing our understanding of hate crime.”
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