An Anglican and a Roman Catholic bishop have joined together to condemn a UK government billboard and stop-and-search campaign targeted at immigrants designated 'illegal'.
Bishop Nick Baines of Bradford in northern England said the Home Office's’ controversial 'go home' bus and van campaign was divisive and ineffective.
Campaigners for migrants' rights have described it as racist and intimidatory. Action is being taken on grounds of discrimination through legal channels, and complaints have been made to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).
Catholic Bishop Patrick Lynch, one of the Church’s authorities on migration issues, has said that the government’s billboard campaign targeting unregistered immigrants in several London boroughs has left the impression all immigrants and foreigners are unwelcome in Britain.
Earlier this month, bus and van ads appeared across London with the slogan: “Go home or face arrest.” The Home Office paid for the ads.
A summer immigration crackdown has included spot identity checks and regular Ministry of Home Affairs updates on Twitter detailing the number of people arrested.
“These cases need to be dealt with compassionately, especially when there are children involved,” Lynch told The Catholic Herald newspaper.
Sarah Teather, a Liberal Democrat member of Parliament and former minister, who is also a practising Catholic, suggested the announcements are designed to make the government look tough on immigration.
There are an estimated 570,000 unregistered immigrants in Britain, many from Africa but also from eastern Europe.
Churches are among those who have supported a No One is Illegal campaign in the recent past.