Cet été, de drôles de pancartes sur des camions publicitaires ont pu être aperçues dans six quartiers londoniens réputés abriter de nombreux immigrés. En effet, sur ces affiches, les Londoniens pouvaient lire : « Go home or face arrest» (« Rentrez chez vous ou prenez le risque de vous faire arrêter »). Ce projet n’est pas sans rappeler celui des affiches dépréciatives visant à dissuader l’immigration en Grande-Bretagne. A l’initiative du gouvernement, cette campagne anti-immigration, qui s’inscrit dans le cadre d’un projet pilote du Ministère de l’Intérieur britannique, a pour but de donner une chance aux immigrés illégaux de rentrer chez eux. Mais cette campagne vise-t-elle simplement à faciliter le retour des immigrés ou a-t-elle une dimension plus politique à l’approche des élections ?
This summer, if you walked in some London districts, you could see billboards that read: “Go Home or Face Arrest”. They showed handcuffs and the number of arrests in the district the week before. This message was part of the Home Office project run by the Conservative government.
For the Tories, it is a way to help migrants leave without problems, with free assistance and journey. The number on the billboards (78070) is for immigrants to use to text “HOME” and get this aid. Some say this plan (to pay for assistance and journey) offers an appealing deal to many illegal immigrants whose standard of living is appalling and who are constantly threatened by the people who brought them and who they owe money to. David Goodhart, director of the think-tank Demos, says that those billboards will reassure more Londoners than it will scare people (let’s remind you that half a million illegal immigrants live in London).
But with the 2015 elections coming up, the Tories also hope to recover a part of their supporters who left for Nigel Farage’s UKIP. Cross-party groups reproach the Home Office policy with not being efficient enough. Thanks to its anti-EU and anti-immigration platform, UKIP succeeded in becoming a party which carries significant weight (according to the last YouGov/Sun poll, UKIP represents 13% of the voting intentions). It has become more or less ‘normal’ for all parties to make anti-immigration speeches. Even Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant, denounced the fact that some companies like Tesco (the third larger retailer in the world measured by profits) or Next bring in people from the East to the UK and pay them lower wages, which, he says, “penalizes British people”.
This explains why some Britons have supported the government’s campaign. They are fed up with losing their jobs “because of these migrants”, brought in by the companies and who work for less than the national minimum wage. According to a YouGov polling report, 47% Britons agreed with this campaign and 41% opposed it. Thus for the Government it was a success and they are planning to extend the campaign to other parts of Britain.
True enough, the Home Office billboards are controversial, as the Advertising Standards Authorithy (ASA) received no fewer than 60 complaints about the promptly nicknamed “racist van” and is now investigating whether or not the posters are in fact racist. Some minorities felt offended by the way the message was phrased. A few people didn’t hesitate to show their frustration by demonstrating. As did the campaign group Southall Black Sisters, for instance. Others preferred to react on the social networks: inviting to “troll” the Home Office by sending them humorous responses such as “Hello, I would like to go home in Dorset the week after next…”. Some politicians also criticized the project, as did Nigel Farage, and Nick Clegg, who declared that “no Liberal Democrat were involved”. It is for him the perfect opportunity to try and appeal to his own core supporters before 2015.
Matthieu BELLEAU & Philppe-Amaury GUSSE