The Home Office has been accused of sending an ill-judged tweet featuring several illegal immigrants being bundled into the back of a van.
The tweet read: "There will be no hiding place for illegal immigrants with the new #ImmigrationBill".
It was followed by a video embedded in a tweet, featuring immigration minister Mark Harper talking about a consultation on a proposed change in the law on landlords and illegal immigrants.
— The Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) July 3, 2013
Awale Olad, public and parliamentary affairs officer for Migrant Rights told The Huffington Post UK: ""This is an appalling insight into the attitude of the Home Office towards the complex and sensitive issue of immigration.
"How can migrants possibly believe that they will be treated fairly and equally under the law when these kinds of threatening positions are adopted by the government?
The Home Office's twitter replies were flooded with comments from those calling the tweet hostile and inflammatory.
.@ukhomeoffice you'd fit right in in Germany circa 1936
— Peter Pannier (@PeterPannier) July 3, 2013
@ukhomeoffice yeah you might want to consider how you're approaching this whole social media thing really.
— Thomas Blythe™ (@thomasblythe) July 3, 2013
.@ukhomeoffice The long and noble tradition of making humans live in fear of "the knock on the door".
— Huw Lemmey (@spitzenprodukte) July 3, 2013
@ukhomeoffice you must have a harder example than finding them in the back of an Immigration Enforcement van?
— Niall Doherty (@NiallMDoherty) July 3, 2013
It is not the first time that government rhetoric on immigration has been accused of fuelling hostility.
In March, Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, told the Guardian Britain treats Bulgarian and Romanian citizens like a scourge and says it is time to blow the whistle on such shameful rhetoric.
"The UK debate has taken a worrying turn as it depicts lower-skilled migrants as dangerous foreigners coming to steal jobs, lower salaries and spoil the health system.
"A stigma is put on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens just because of their origin. This is unacceptable because a state cannot treat Bulgarian and Romanian citizens differently from other EU citizens. They need to be treated as everyone else, not on the basis of assumptions or generalisations about their ethnic origin," said Muiznieks, a Latvian politician.
"If migrants have no access to quality education, housing, health care and social security from the start, this will only increase their social exclusion.
"This in turn fuels anti-immigration rhetoric and xenophobia, and creates even more social problems in the long run. Immigrants should therefore enjoy the same social rights as other Europeans."
As well as plans to criminalise landlords who let property to illegal immigrants, the government has announced plans to charge immigrants to use the NHS and give UK citizens priority for social housing, and are even considering asking schools to check whether pupils are illegal migrants, according to leaked emails revealed by the Guardian.
A Home Office spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK: “We use a variety of channels, including social media, to raise awareness of government policy and our work to deliver that policy, including tackling illegal immigration.
“We have a rich history as a diverse and welcoming society and we want to ensure we attract the brightest and the best but those who are in the country illegally face removal.”