The so-called "racist van", the Home Office initiative to get illegal immigrants to go home, isn't having a great first week out on the road.
Vans with giant billboards featuring the slogan "go home or face arrest" are being driven around London this week in an attempt to persuade illegal immigrants to leave the country.
The van will tour some of London's most multicultural boroughs; Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Barnet, Brent and Redbridge.
The message on the vans reads:
In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice, and help with travel documents. We can help you return home voluntarily without fear of arrest or detention.
One objector, who goes by the name Pukkah Punjabi on Twitter, told HuffPostUK she had called the number and asked to be taken home to Willesden, north west London.
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"I did keep them on the phone for a while but I'm not sure she was fooled because of my distinctly London accent," she told HuffPost UK.
"I think it is an entirely legitimate campaign, because this is a hate campaign by the Home Office. It is perfectly legitimate to waste their time."
A targeted campaign is being directed at the van company, Promo, asking them not to run the ads, and people are encouraged to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Activists have also hijacked the text number, sending tongue-in-cheek or abusive messages to the Home Office line.
If I text the #racistvan, tell them I'm actually from Barbados, and I want to go home, will I get a free holiday?— Adam Jacobs (@adam_j666) July 25, 2013
Don Flynn, the director of the Migrants' Rights Network, called it a "shocking" scheme.
"The Home Office does not appear to have given a moment's consideration to the impact it will have on local community relations," he said.
"This has huge potential to ramp up mistrust and suspicion in local areas with damage being inflicted on a wide range of minority ethnic groups.
"Public accusations being flung around people who might be irregular migrants is dog whistle politics at its very worst. This is a truly shocking initiative."
And even Ukip's Nigel Farage attacked the Home Office plan: "Government mobile billboards telling illegal immigrants they will be arrested is gesture politics aimed at trying to shoot the Ukip fox," he said on Facebook.
"The government have no idea how many illegal immigrants are in this country thus no idea what percentage have been arrested."
One of the more left-field opponents of the scheme was former Blue singer Lee Ryan.
The boybander took to Twitter to express his outrage:
Just saw a bill board about illegal immigration...Go home? All I can say is really!?? I'm sorry but it's just the wrong way, wrong message.— Lee Ryan (@LeeRyanMusic) July 23, 2013
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