Another new initiative has brought shame and embarrassment to the government’s handling of immigration issues, in the form of Immigration Text Messages sent to 58,000 people suggesting they were in the country illegally and requesting them to leave.
A number of the recipients were long-standing UK passport holders.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister David Hanson said: “the reports that the government has allowed a private contractor to send British citizens text message telling them to leave the country demonstrates once more just how shambolic and incompetent the Home Office’s border police is under Theresa May.”
“These Immigration Text Messages will rightly cause distress and offence to British citizens, many of whom have done much to contribute to our society. It is simply wrong for this sort of message to be sent by text, and to be so poorly targeted.”
While the message was changed from the originally aggressive “You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain” to a slightly tamer version of “Our records show you may not have leave to remain in the UK. Please contact us to discuss your case”, the reality remains that the government’s methods of ‘controlling’ issues of immigration are getting so out of control and based on the proliferation of fear that, unbelievable, the latest method has even sparked UKIP’s reaction.
To those, like us, who read in disbelief marking this a date to remember, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who campaigns for tighter border controls and Britain’s exit from the EU, said the text message scheme was the product of a government with “absolutely zero sensibility and even less sense.”
He continued by expressing that: “to send threatening text messages and emails to people on some sort of clearly ill-managed central database is deeply disturbing and the sort of behaviour one would expect from a fascistic police state, not a democratic and inclusive nation. Quite frankly it’s abhorrent.”
Perhaps the reaction could be linked with UKIP MEP candidate Amjad Bashir being the recipient of one such text, despite the fact that he is a UK passport holder.
Regardless, of the reason, the validity of the comparison to actions of a police state remains. The Home Office said it was “right to enforce the rules”, and Mr Cameron’s spokesman said: “The prime minister agrees with the principle of the texts. “It is one of various means the Home Office contacts people who may not have the right to remain in the UK.”
But two recipients of the texts – campaigner Suresh Grover and immigration lawyer Bobby Chan – reacted angrily to the message. “I came here with my parents in 1966, I was born in East Africa and have a British passport,” adding he was “shocked” and “horrified” to be contacted in this way.
Mr Chan said the texts “stereotype immigrants as a criminal community and create an atmosphere of fear”. Labour described the government’s tactic as “shambolic and incompetent”, acussing ministers of “borrowing language” used by the National Front in the 1970s. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable said the campaign had been “stupid and offensive”. After disseminating ‘messages’ by van, and now by phone, we wonder if fliers from the air will be next ?