The Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales on why he doesn’t want the Go Home or Face Arrest vans in the borough

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham - Credit: Archant

Anyone can make a noise about problems but the best thing to do is use your energy to solve them. That’s my response to the divisive Go Home advertising campaign run by the Home Office, which has plastered the message “Go Home or Face Arrest” over vans that are driving round London.

The campaign does nothing to end the ruthless exploitation of vulnerable people or contribute to community cohesion. That’s why I’ve told the Home Office I don’t want them in Newham either now or in the future.

We take the issue of illegal immigration seriously. Most people in Newham will appreciate that all too often the victims of illegal immigration are the migrants themselves.

If the Home Secretary wants to understand the issues, she’s welcome to come and see the reality of people working for less than the minimum wage while living in dangerous houses of multiple occupancy or illegal sheds with beds that are unfit to live in.

While here, Theresa May can also see how hard we’ve worked to create a united community so that she can understand just how much damage her department’s Go Home campaign could do to community cohesion.

As mayor of the most diverse borough in Britain, I am proud that 86 per cent of Newham residents say this is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well. This comes in part from our ongoing investment in bringing people together through activities such as our extensive programme of free community events. We know that the English language is a cornerstone of integration and that’s why we continue to invest in English language lessons while the government has cut them. We make clear our expectations of new arrivals and the importance of fair treatment for all.

We have a constructive relationship with the Home Office, UK Border Agency, Police, HM Revenue & Customs and other agencies in tackling illegal immigration alongside related issues. These include enforcement of the national minimum wage, preventing exploitative housing and targeting shops we know are exploiting their workers.

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Given the response by the public, the investigation into the campaign by the advertising watchdog, and that it faces a challenge in the courts, I think the best thing the Home Office can do is save petrol by sending its vans home to the depot.