Civil liberties campaigners are hitting back at the Home Office's controversial "go home" anti-illegal immigrant vans - with a van of their own.

Liberty are driving a van around London on Tuesday carrying the slogan: "Stirring up tension and division in the UK illegally? Home Office, think again."

The campaign is in response to a Home Office van that featured a billboard telling illegal immigrants:

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.

The controversial message led the vehicle to be dubbed the "racist van" - and was disowned by Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem half of the coalition.

The Liberty van out on the streets today will circle the Home Office, Westminster and the surrounding area in the morning, before visiting Kensal Green and Walthamstow in the afternoon.

According to the civil liberties charity the Home Office vans were "deeply offensive and divisive" and in breach of the Equality Act - and therefore against the law.

Liberty also said it did not believe the government had the legal authority for the controversial immigration spot checks being carried out by Home Office officials.

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy, said: "What better way to sow mistrust and division than the latest Home Office activities? Offensive vans pedalling racist slogans and spot checks on the streets are as un-British as they are unlawful.

"The department needs to think again, and fast - anyone who has been subject to a spot check should contact Liberty"

On Tuesday morning Boris Johnson also said while he felt illegal immigrants should obey the law - the language on the Home Office vans "could be friendlier".

And the Home Office campaign was too extreme for Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who said the tone of the billboards was "nasty" and "unpleasant".

"Government mobile billboards telling illegal immigrants they will be arrested is gesture politics aimed at trying to shoot the Ukip fox," he said.

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