The Home Office's van. Photo: Gov.UK
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Home Office live-tweets immigration raids

The message is clear: we're coming for you.

The Home Office twitter feed stepped up its ongoing campaign to scare the shit out of migrants yesterday, live tweeting co-ordinated raids across the country.













The tweets are the public face of what seems to be a deliberate stepping-up of anti-immigrant activities. The department has also launched an aggressive mobile ad campaign aimed at people in the UK illegally, quickly nicknamed the "racist van" due to the similarity of its slogan to those used by the National Front; and anecdotal evidence suggests that spot-checks on public transport, particularly around the capital, have become more frequent and forceful.

Late last month, the UK Border Agency was out in force in Kensal Green, in the London Borough of Brent. The borough has the largest foreign-born population in Britain – 54.2 per cent of residents weren't born in the UK, as of the last census — and so any aggressive swoop is likely to feel hostile to its residents. That is twice as true if, as seems likely, there is an element of racial profiling to the checks. Matt Kelcher wrote of his experience, saying that the UKBA agents "didn’t seem interested in me and I walked straight through, but the two Asian women who entered the station after me were stopped, taken to one side and questioned."

In a way, the Home Office twitter campaign is just honesty. Actions speak louder than words, and the department's actions make it pretty clear that it is prepared to go to lengths many people find abhorrent to crack down on illegal immigrants. Maybe it's better that they are at least open about it. But what rankles most, judging by the replies to the account, is the pride. Even if we were prepared to accept that this sort of grotty work is necessary given the laws of our country, it's another thing entirely to see the Government revelling in it, and shouting it out for all the world to see.

The Home Office argues that the various publicity campaigns are aimed squarely at illegal migrants, encouraging them to leave the country; but, as Rafael Behr wrote of the vans, "at least part of the intended audience for this campaign is people who are British, who think there are too many immigrants here and want some of them to leave". The migrants who might actually see the tweets and fear for their safety look more like collateral damage.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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En français, s'il vous plaît! EU lead negotiator wants to talk Brexit in French

C'est très difficile. 

In November 2015, after the Paris attacks, Theresa May said: "Nous sommes solidaires avec vous, nous sommes tous ensemble." ("We are in solidarity with you, we are all together.")

But now the Prime Minister might have to brush up her French and take it to a much higher level.

Reuters reports the EU's lead Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, would like to hold the talks in French, not English (an EU spokeswoman said no official language had been agreed). 

As for the Home office? Aucun commentaire.

But on Twitter, British social media users are finding it all très amusant.

In the UK, foreign language teaching has suffered from years of neglect. The government may regret this now . . .

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.