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Charities refuse Home Office requests to participate in ‘anti-refugee propaganda campaign’

THE Home Office has sparked anger after trying to enlist the help of charities to inform communications campaigns aimed at deterring asylum-seekers from coming to Britain. 

Several organisations, including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), have declared that they will not engage with what they described as a “hostile propaganda campaign” against refugees. 

JCWI said it was one of tens of organisations approached by the Home Office this week to “consult” on a social media campaign rolled out by the department in northern France and Belgium. 

The campaign seeks to warn “potential irregular migrants” of the “risks and dangers of illegal migration — especially via small boat crossings,” a Home Office email sent to JCWI reveals. 

It goes on to ask groups “to help us understand migrant perceptions of migrating to the UK” and “their awareness of current and future migration policies.” 

But dozens of advocacy groups are understood to have vowed to boycott the consultation, run by think tank Britain Thinks.

JCWI advocacy director Zehrah Hasan said: “We’ve told this government time and again what will save lives — and that’s safe routes. 

“But instead of taking the practical steps needed to introduce these routes, this government [is] showing themselves to be committed to cruelty, as it plans a hostile propaganda campaign that will only lead to more deaths.

“We won’t be complicit in this anti-refugee scare campaign, and we know that tens of other migrant and refugee rights groups are taking the same stance.” 

Other groups refusing to participate in the consultation include Refugee Action, Asylum Matters, Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, No Accommodation Network, and the3million. 

Refugee Action chief executive Tim Naor Hilton branded the plans “another sleazy PR exercise dressed up as a consultation.”

“This ‘information campaign’ sounds like an online ‘Go Home’ van and we remain seriously alarmed by any government plan with a racist design to keep people out, not keep people safe,” he said. 

Head of advocacy and policy at the3million Luke Piper said: “There are insufficient safe routes for people to come to the UK and this requires urgent attention above a communications campaign designed to scare and push people further underground.”

A Home Office spokesperson expressed disappointment at the organisations’ refusals to engage with its “attempts to work together to improve communications to vulnerable people being sold a lie by inhumane smugglers.”

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