Cry “political correctness gone mad” all you like, the vans that the Home Office recently sent around boroughs of North London – displaying the slogan “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest” – were racist. Not only that, they were a disturbing sign of the government pandering to the Far Right; the likes of UKIP and the EDL.
Public displays of anti-immigrant propaganda are telling of the pressure which the government is facing to act on immigration (legal or illegal – it does not matter to UKIP). Politics always become polarised in times of economic hardship: UKIP has a constant presence in the media, and many Conservative backbenchers share their prejudices (the Tory backlash against the equal marriage bill, for instance). By employing what has become a racist catchphrase, “Go home”, the Home Office has allied itself to a political ideology which is inherently racist.
To any rational human being it is clear that immigrants and ethnic minorities are not necessarily the same thing. People of all racial, religious and cultural backgrounds migrate to this country every year. However, UKIP defines immigrants based on race alone. Western white immigrants are not vilified because they cannot be pointed out simply based on skin colour, and so they are not branded as “troublemakers” in the same way that black, Asian and Eastern European people are. I feel that there is overwhelming evidence that UKIP is a racist party; Godfrey Bloom’s recent “Bongo Bongo Land” comments spring to mind. It is disgusting to see the government employing the bigoted, racist language of UKIP in a propaganda campaign designed to intimidate and demonise immigrants – even those in this country legally.
Even more disturbing than the vans was the Home Office tweeting about arrests of 139 suspected illegal immigrants. Completely ignoring the principle of innocent until proven guilty, the Home Office publicising the arrest of suspected illegal immigrants without due process is illegal in itself. They even published photographs and turned it into a hash tag.
Furthermore, those carrying out the raids on shops, restaurants and homes – the UK Border Agency and the police – have long faced accusations of racial profiling. This year, research conducted by the London School of Economics found that a black person was 29.7 times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person in England and Wales, and in April the Metropolitan Police was branded “institutionally racist” by its own black and Asian officers. Many recent accounts of raids note that it is almost exclusively black and Asian communities which are subject to raids by the UK Border Agency.
Racial profiling by the police and immigration officers is certainly nothing new, however the recent propaganda coming from the Home Office is a clear sign that the government is caving to pressure from UKIP, and that racism is institutional not just in the police but among government bodies as well. The label of ‘illegal immigrants’ is being used to scapegoat minorities and tar anyone who does not fit the Right Wing ideal with the same brush.