THE BLOG

Preaching to the Deserted

31/07/2013 10:29 BST | Updated 29/09/2013 10:12 BST

"In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest" is the message plastered on the side of vans being driven around East London. Whatever happened the to dust-scrawled "I wish my wife was as dirty as this" joke, you may ask? I'm afraid I do not know either, yet another victim of the fast-moving witty-graffiti agenda one suspects. What I do know is that these vans are stupid. Not racist, as some people seem to be saying, just very stupid. And also pointless.

Consider this: whereas the reasonably amusing aforementioned 'wife graffiti' was written almost exclusively by people prepared to smear their own fingers in dirt encasing someone else's van to demonstrate that a), yes the van was in fact dirty and b), they weren't satisfied with the sexual adventurousness of their own spouse - the "Go home" message is actually the work of the Government. The Home Office to be precise; which is the "lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, counter-terrorism and police."

And whereas the aforementioned 'wife graffiti' was unlikely to have been conceived in numerous committee meetings and steering groups and was rarely paid for out of the already overstretched People Who Like to Leave Silly Messages in Dirt on Other People's Vehicles' budget....well you get the idea.

Yet I would argue there's more chance of a wife seeing her husband write "I wish my wife was as dirty as this" on the side of a filthy van at a petrol station and decide to change their ways, than there is an illegal immigrant choosing to go home because the Government has a mobile billboard informing them of what they already now: namely, it's illegal to break the law.

You might think such obvious stupidity an anomaly. You'd be forgiven for believing this deprivation of human thinking is the kind of thing that you might, if you're lucky, get to see once in your lifetime if the stars correctly aligned, but it couldn't possibly be being happening elsewhere simultaneously. But you'd be wrong. Because in Australia the government is currently taking out adverts in national newspapers, which pronounce in big bold letters: "If you come here by boat without a Visa you won't be settled in Australia".

Now, I'm not well-versed in the reading habits of the so-called 'boat people' (the Asian migrants who sail to Australia to seek refugee status), but I suspect they don't tend to read English language Australian newspapers until they've actually arrived in the country. I may be wrong; perhaps they like to check the weather forecast before leaving, on the off chance that should they avoid drowning at sea and actually arrive they'll be appropriately dressed.

And, once again I do take some issue with the wording. I mean, why specify "If you come here by boat"? Surely, if you're going to crank down on illegal migrants coming to Australia you'd do so irrespective of their mode of transport? I wonder if anyone's ever been let off for arriving in Australia by ship without a visa? "Well you see officer the clue is that it's actually carrying a boat, therefore it is technically a ship." It's just a shame that the Aborigines didn't have this foresight: "Anyone arriving in Australia without a visa on any form of vessel is hereby instructed to take their imperialist intentions elsewhere".

For the boat-people who neglect to read the small print before setting off there's a twist in the tail. "You'll be settled in Papua New Guinea", say the Australian Government. Surprise!

To most people I imagine, deterring illegal immigrants from committing a crime they'll have invariably already committed by the time they see the government's message warning against it, sounds completely illogical. (Not to mention exhausting). If only it were so simple though. No, sadly this has more to do with votes than boats, (it is election year in Australia after all). And here our parties are just gearing up, which means 20 months of chest-puffing, tub-thumping and posturing about who's fairest and toughest on immigration. So keep your eyes peeled for messages written on vans to deter those arriving on boats. It'll happen.