The Home Office has set up billboard vans that have been driven around displaying messages calling on illegal immigrants to 'Go home'. It's that familiar old right wing racist chant which manages to merge the contradictions of 'Home Sweet Home' with a 'You Don't Belong Here' message. It's a hark back to the 1970s and 1980s when 'Go Home' was an institutionalised phrase which told people of colour that they did not belong to a Western country and ought to have stayed put in the Southern Hemisphere.
There has been a campaign of outrage expressed on Twitter about the vans. A funny person going by the name of Pukkah Punjabi decided to take the Home Office up on their offer. He called the number given and asked for a taxi to take him from Harrow to Willesden. The ensuing story is a riot of humour but does not mask the ugliness of the campaign. While the campaign explicitly states that it is targeted at illegal immigrants one gets the feeling that a loathing of all foreigners is subsumed within it; whether they are here legally or not.
The fear of the foreigner is actively being churned up in the immigration debate that will define, supposedly, which party is most tough on those who don't 'Go Home' and take our jobs. According to a Tory party strategist the message is akin to 'ET Go Home'. I disagree, There is a difference and it is that ET was an out and out alien who was dying on earth and needed to 'Go Home' to survive. Illegal immigrants maybe faceless to the general public and stigmatised as criminal rotters but they are not aliens; they are human beings who are often escaping a violent situation, such as war, in their own countries. To target illegal immigrants in a knee jerk way without looking at foreign policies that create refugees is foolish. Climate change experts are predicting a refugee movement that will be driven by environmental factors. What happens when climate change refugees don't have homes to 'Go Home' to?
In the midst of all this comes the story of an immigrant who did go home because his visa ran out. The royal footman who helped put up the birth announcement outside Buckingham Palace last week has now left the country. Badar Azim comes from India, studied at Napier University in Edinburgh, worked at Buckingham Palace and experienced a global moment of fame last week. He may have left Britain but he will forever play a starring role in Britain's memory of the day the third in line to the throne was born. Immigrants can be productive. While the vans may refer to 'illegal immigrants I cannot help but be suspicious of the fact that there is a larger message being boomed out which is anti-everybody else.