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Issue #1606      August 14, 2013

Ads watchdog piles into racist van row

The backlash against the government’s controversial immigration ad vans campaign forced an official response last week as the advertising watchdog confirmed it would investigate whether guidelines had been breached.

The “go home, or you’ll be picked up and deported” ads targeting “illegal” immigrants sparked fury when they were launched by the Home Office in London last month.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it launched the investigation after receiving 60 complaints expressing concerns that the ads were “reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past.”

Some complainants also questioned whether a claim about arrest figures in the advert were misleading. An ASA spokesman said: “I can confirm that the ASA has launched a formal investigation into the Home Office ‘Go Home’ ad campaign following 60 complaints.

“Complainants have expressed concerns that the ad, in particular the phrase ‘go home,’ is offensive and irresponsible because it is reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past and could incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities.

“Separately, some complainants have challenged whether the claim ‘106 arrests last week in your area’ is misleading.

“They’ve also challenged whether it is misleading because it implies arrest is the automatic consequence of remaining in the UK without permission. We will publish our findings in due course.”

Civil rights groups and unions welcomed the investigation.

Liberty policy officer Rachel Robinson said: “Another day, another sign that this cheap Home Office stunt has backfired. Driving National Front-style slogans around ethnically diverse areas was bound to cause deep offence. The Home Office have a duty to promote good relations and eliminate discrimination – it’s time for them to think again.”

Unison union national officer for race equality Khadiee Campbell added: “The fact that the Home Office think that this type of advertising is acceptable shows how low this government is prepared to stoop.”

Morning Star  

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