UK government sends 40,000 texts to semi-random foreigners (and some Brits): "You are required to leave the UK!"

Britain continues its slide into official xenophobia: a government contractor sent nearly 40,000 texts reading "Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain." At least 400 of these reportedly went to people who had the right to be in the country, including some UK citizens. But the contractor says it's all OK, because people who received messages in error weren't deported -- all they had to do was convince a sloppy, faceless, mercenary corporation that they had the right to be in the country and the threats of deportation, deprivation of access to their homes, employment and families ceased. Theresa May, the government's Foreignerfinder General, says it wasn't her idea to send the texts -- just like all the ministers who disavowed the vans driving around London's browner neighbourhoods with giant billboards reading "In the UK illegally? GO HOME or face arrest!"

But still: No biggie!

A total of 39,100 text messages have been sent by Capita on behalf of the government as part of a contract to track down about 58,800 individuals who may not have the right to live in the UK.

The text reads: "Message from the UK Border Agency. You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have right to remain." Up to 400 complaints have reportedly been filed, including from individuals who have lived in the country for decades, and have the right to stay. The Home Office says the number of complaints is smaller.

The existence of the texting programme was revealed in a Freedom of Information request.

Labour demands answers over 40,000 'go home' texts to immigrants [Patrick Wintour/The Guardian]

Notable Replies

  1. Does anyone have Theresa May's mobile number? I reckon we can crowdsource 40,000 texts: "You are required to leave office"

  2. IMB says:

    I don't live in the UK, but if I had received a text, supposedly government sourced or endorsed, I would have deleted it as phishing spam. Does the UK government conduct its business routinely through texts?

  3. NickyG says:

    How very Children of Men of them

  4. can we not firebomb the daily mail once and for all, please? I think any organisation that advocates hatred of fellow human beings is tinder to my kerosene.

    FTA: "Whole areas of Britain have been transformed by this social change as these foreigners have been given full access to our public services and generous benefits system." yet, the BBC points out that this is unsupported by evidence:

    Edited to add: I would actually kill the Daily Mail with my CareBear Stare


  5. The one entertaining thing about this (it'd be a lot funnier, obviously, if they weren't mostly succeeding in dragging down everyone else as well) is watching the effect of ostensibly 'neoliberal' or 'libertarian' dogma on traditionally authoritarian/xenophobic/reactionary politics. The simultaneously want a 'traditional' (some might argue 'ahistorical nostalgic...') sense of 'country' and 'culture' and 'people'; but they also agree that "you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.(and corporate persons, of course)"

    It's bullying, because its the state casually kicking people at the bottom of the totem pole; but it's also pathetic. "The State" has been so hollowed out by privatization mania and the fetish for the alleged efficiencies of the private sector that it doesn't even have jackbooted state force to do the bullying with. Instead, some well-connected telemarketer has been hired to spam them out of the country. It's a pathetic exercise that neither glorifies the might of the state, nor channels some atavistic reactionary populism. It's just a banal, poorly executed, post-industrial call center operation.

    Watching a party try to balance the conviction of the state's illegitimacy with the conviction that the power of the state must be used to keep society in proper order is like some sort of absurdist black comedy.

    It's a potent, destructive, combination, that shows every sign of gnawing its way like a swarm of carrion maggots through a whole lot of bystanders before it burns out; but it's fundamentally flawed and contradictory in a sense that, say, mere wishful thinking about how much cash you have on hand for social spending isn't. That's just a mistake of degree, this is a confusion of kind: they simultaneously want to have their atomized neoliberal homo-economicus, acting rationally on the market stage; but still come home to a nice cozy 'britishness' founded on a mixture of largely nonmarket culture and nonmarket state exclusion of foreign elements.

    (edit: The rot isn't confined to the Conservatives, consider the example of the Nu-Labor 2012 London Games, and the hilariously gigantic G4S farce: You've lobbied like hell, spent a zillion bucks, all to get a big National Pride Display, and who do you send to deal with your security interests, security being long recognized as one of the core aspects of even a minimalist nation-state? Rentacops. Incompetent, feckless, abusive-at-the-top-and-powerless-at-the-bottom rentacops. Can you imagine the 1936 Munich Games being handled that way? I certainly can't.)

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