Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Warsi 'glad' van scheme was ditched

Controversial Government adverts urged illegal immigrants to 'go home'

The Government minister with responsibility for religious and racial communities today said she was "glad" that Home Secretary Theresa May had ditched the use of advertising vans carrying messages telling illegal immigrants to "go home or face arrest".

Faith and communities minister Baroness Warsi said that politicians should "think long and hard" before embarking on any policy which might create confusion between illegal immigrants and members of ethnic minority communities who are entitled to be in the UK.

Mrs May last week announced that the van campaign would not be rolled out nationwide after a pilot in several London boroughs showed it was "too much of a blunt instrument".

Speaking to Sky News's Murnaghan, Lady Warsi said: "Theresa May has made clear that it's not a pilot that they intend to take forward. I don't think it was a particularly positive experience and I'm glad that we won't be going back to it.

"I think it's always important for Government to be clear when they are speaking to their communities that all people who are part of this nation legally are absolutely welcome. If there's anything we do in our policies which doesn't entirely make clear that distinction between people who are very much part of the fabric of this society and those people who are here illegally and should not be here - anything that causes that confusion we should think long and hard about.

"I'm glad that the pilot was just a pilot and it won't be going any further."

Lady Warsi said that Britain should keep its doors open to "good immigration" by people able to make an economic contribution to the country, but should prevent uncontrolled mass immigration.

"I don't think there is a politician who isn't pro-good immigration," she said. "This country will always be open to those people who want to come here, make a contribution, make a better life for themselves and add value to the United Kingdom.

"But it's right that we don't have mass immigration and it's right therefore that Theresa May has been leading on making sure that we get immigration under control."

She added: " It is right that we control the number of people coming to this country, it's right that we don't allow people to abuse the system. It's right that people who come here make a positive contribution, improve their lives and improve the life of the nation will always be welcome."

Lady Warsi said that Muslim women should have the right to decide for themselves whether they wear the veil, but that there were certain circumstances in which face coverings were not appropriate, such as when giving evidence in court.

"I've made my position on veils incredibly clear," she said. "Women should have the right to wear whatever they want in their private lives. Women in this country won that battle decades ago when men butted out of our wardrobes, and I hope men will remain away from our wardrobes and allow us to wear what we want.

"But I've also said that if there are garments which effectively stop you from engaging in the workplace, stop you from being identified if there's an issue of security or health and safety, then it's absolutely right that people should be asked to remove their veil to be identified, or for example to give evidence in court.

"Fundamentally, Britain is not the kind of nation that goes around telling women what they can and cannot wear and banning items of clothing."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties campaign group Liberty, said: "Credit to the minister for speaking home truths about the dangers of dog whistle politics. It's good that the racist Government ad van has been driven off for good, but a very nasty Immigration Bill fell out of its back door.

"When immigration checks are sub-contracted to private landlords and health professionals, who's going to be singled out? Someone who looks like the Home Secretary or a bit more like Baroness Warsi?"

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