Magazine article New Internationalist

Racists, Go Home

Magazine article New Internationalist

Racists, Go Home

Article excerpt

Readers in Britain may be familiar with the now- withdrawn #RacistVan*, whose billboard declared: 'In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest. Text HOME to 78070 for free advice.'

Now obviously, this is a genius idea. Because if you lived in a country where you could be tortured and killed for your beliefs, and you've battled through hell to get into a country that you believe can offer you safe haven, you'd definitely see an advert on a van and think to yourself, 'It's illegal for me to be here? Oh my goodness, I didn't realize! In that case, let me just text the government, on that phone that I definitely own, and hand myself in. To think I could have had a criminal record! I really dodged a bullet there.'

'Go home!' It's the language of rightwing extremists, and the government knows it. The vans aren't meant to appeal to 'illegal' immigrants - they're meant to appeal to Conservative voters who are drifting to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

But it did make me wonder - how could I be sure that I was here legally? I needed to check. I am a patriot, after all. So I texted in.

First thing the next day, I received a voicemail from the Home Office: 'If you are genuinely interested in a voluntary departure, please call us back.' They stressed the word genuinely, as if it were a response to an online dating ad: 'Genuine people only, no time-wasters, must have GSOH, especially with regard to our ludicrous anti-immigration policies.'

Later that day I spoke to a very stern no-nonsense lady and I explained to her, in my finest BBC English accent, that I wasn't sure if I was here legally. Wearily, she sighed - a sign that perhaps I wasn't the first person to have had this idea - and said, 'Come on then, let's hear it.' Why, it's almost as if hundreds of other people are trolling the Home Office with preposterous excuses, in protest at their racist propaganda! …

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