“Go Home” Advans take us back decades


I have been contacted by a number of local people about the new Home Office attempts to address illegal immigration. Let’s be clear – the “Go Home” advans and UK Border Office spot checks are little more than right wing propaganda. We have seen a number of ill-judged Conservative immigration policies emerge over the past few months – such as ‘cracking down’ on health tourism, which in fact only constitutes 0.0.1% of the entire NHS budget –  but these vans are deeply unsettling developments.

Firstly, everyone can see these policies are entirely politically motivated. Instead of an evidence based approach to tackle immigration and improve integration, the Tories are using tax payer’s money to secure a headline and calm their party’s fear of UKIP. There are no doubts that illegal immigration is deeply damaging –  both for those brought here illegally who often face hardship and exploitation when they arrive,  and for British people who feel the system is being abused. But these latest Home Office initiatives show this Government only care about being seen to do something, rather than actually addressing illegal immigration in a sensible way. The Government should be taking practical steps – such as implementation of efficient border controls and exit checks that count people both in and out of the country. Instead ,they are wasting money on cynical gimmicks that just won’t work. I’ve written to the Home Secretary to find out whether these vans will be soon be stirring up controversy Birmingham,  and I’m pleased that the Advertising Standards Agency are now looking into the issue after numerous complaints.

Instead of demonising ethnically diverse communities and pedalling hatred, the Government should be building a fair and controlled migration system that people support. Labour didn’t get everything right on immigration between 1997-2010. But I agree with the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who is calling for a fairer system of controls and limits, stronger action to stop exploitation and undercutting in the Labour markets, policies that will support better integration, and recognition of the different types of migration that we face.

I know from people visiting me at my advice desks that the Government’s immigration policy is failing to address the needs of people coming here legitimately to work and live with their families. And at the moment skilled workers and entrepreneurs are being put off from applying for UK visas because of the huge waiting times under this Government. We need an effective system that responds to different needs, rather than badly thought out policies that just aim to make the Conservatives look ‘tough.’ 

But above all we need an honest and open debate about the issue. Without proper recognition of people’s concerns about immigration the racism and fear peddled by groups such as the EDL will continue to grow. But instead of tackling this threat with constructive dialogue, this Government seems determined to make headlines with divisive stunts that take us back decades in the discussion on migration and diversity.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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