Advertising Standards Authority bans ‘racist van’ campaign which drove through the streets of Brent
PUBLISHED: 12:21 09 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:24 09 October 2013
A Home Office campaign urging illegal immigrants to “go home” which was driven through Brent has been banned for using misleading arrest statistics.
However, the campaign, which involved poster-clad vans driving through the borough and five others in London between July 22 and July 28, was cleared over complaints that it was offensive and irresponsible.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 224 complaints including some from groups representing migrants in the UK, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey.
The poster featured a close-up image of someone holding a pair of handcuffs and wearing a uniform with a “Home Office” badge and a box stating: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”
Green text in the style of an official stamp stated “106 arrests last week in your area”.
Small print at the bottom of the poster said the arrest figures were from the period June 30 to July 6 and covered Brent, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Ealing and Hounslow where the campaign took place.
The Home Office said the vans were sent to the boroughs which had either significantly above average, or very low, uptake of the voluntary departure route for illegal immigrants.
The ASA said:”We recognised that the poster, and the phrase “go home” in particular, were likely to be distasteful to some in the context of an ad addressed to illegal immigrants, irrespective of the overall message conveyed, and we recognised that wording less likely to produce that response, such as “return home” could have been used.
“However, we concluded that the poster was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or distress.
“Because the data on which the claim was based related to a significant part of London north of the Thames rather than to the specific areas in which the poster was displayed, and because the data did not relate to the week prior to the campaign, we concluded the claim was misleading and had not been substantiated.
“We considered the size of the font used for the qualification, its prominence relative to other information in the poster and the limited time in which those who saw the poster would have to read the qualification meant it had not been presented sufficiently clearly.
“We therefore concluded the poster was misleading.”
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form.
Willesden resident and campaigner Pukkah Punjab said: “I am pleased that the ASA has ruled the billboard vans were misleading in their content and so they will not be back in Brent, at least in their current form.
“However the ASA did not uphold the complaint that the central “Go Home or face arrest” message was offensive.
“This is surprising and disappointing for all those in who found the government’s adoption of a fascist slogan so troubling and divisive.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We are pleased the ASA have concluded that our pilot was neither offensive nor irresponsible. We have always been clear that this campaign was about encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country voluntarily and was not targeted at particular racial or ethnic groups.
“In respect of the ASA’s other findings, we can confirm that the poster will not be used again in its current format.”
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