After the racist van, the racist text

The Home Office's increasingly tough anti-immigration campaigns do not seem to have been held back by the response to the so-called 'racist vans', with news emerging of texts accusing British citizens of being illegal immigrants.

Over 140 complaints have been received after 40,000 people suspected of being illegal immigrants were sent messages by private contractor Capita. Some of the recipients were British citizens.

It comes as immigration minister Mark Harper said the 'go home' vans could still be rolled out across the country despite being banned for providing false information by the Advertising Standards Authority.

"I don't have any problem with saying to people who are here illegally that they shouldn't be here anymore," he told last night's Question Time.

"It's a pilot. We are assessing the results at the moment."

"We are going to publish the results when we have done the evaluation. If it's successful, we will roll it out. If it's not, we won't."

The backlash against the vans does not appear to have discouraged the Home Office from what Labour brands "stunts". This may partly be due to polling which suggests the majority of the public backed the van scheme.

However, it was criticised as authoritarian by figures across the political spectrum, from Vince Cable to Nigel Farage.

A new row broke out when it was revealed anti-racism campaigner Suresh Grover received a 'go home' text, as did Bobby Chan, an immigration caseworker at Central London Community Law.

"I was absolutely shocked and quite horrified to receive the text. I thought it wasn't meant for me. I came here with my parents in 1966, I was born in East Africa and have always had a British passport," Grover told the Independent.

When he called Capita to ask why he had received the text he was refused any information about why he was targeted but was asked even more personal questions, including whether he was married.

"The more I talked to the woman the more angry I got," he said.

"She was asking for more personal information about me and was not telling me where she got my number. I’m not going to be giving them information I don’t think they deserve. I think it's outrageous sending people random texts without knowing who they are sending them to."

Shadow immigration minister David Hanson commented: "Theresa May's immigration system lurches from one gimmick to another with little effect.

"The reports that the government has allowed a private contractor to send British citizens text message telling them to leave the country demonstrates once more just how shambolic and incompetent the Home Office's border police is under Theresa May.

"These messages will rightly cause distress and offence to British citizens, many of whom have done much to contribute to our society.  It is simply wrong for this sort of message to be sent by text, and to be so poorly targeted.

"Yet again, like the offensive and inappropriate ad vans, the government will be using taxpayer's hard earned money to offend and alienate its own citizens."

Ukip called the scheme "repugnant".