Home Office officials said in an evaluation report of the summer campaign – described as too much of a blunt instrument – that at least 60 illegal immigrants voluntary left the UK, and that a further 65 cases are currently being processed.
However, even the government’s own report shows problems with the scheme. The campaign generated over 1,600 reponses – comprised over 1,500 texts and just under 100 calls, but over two-thirds of responses were hoaxes and eight per cent were complaints.
The Home Office says the campaign of billboards, newspaper ads, leaflets and posters cost just under £10,000, and the 60 voluntary removals amount to an estimated saving of more and a £1m in enforcement costs and other public services.
Opponents described the pilot project, known as Operation Vaken, as gimmicky, divisive, disastrous, cheap and a return to the 1970s politics of the National Front.
The report concludes the most cost effective methods were the adverts, leaflets and posters rather than the two vans which toured immigrant communities in six London boroughs for a a week displaying the “Go Home of face arrest” billboards and misleading statistics.
The report quotes one case of a Nigerian man who had overstayed his visitors visa on arriving in 2005. He sent a text to the immigration team after seeing the ad van on television and has now been returned.