The posters that were displayed in the offices of the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) in Glasgow read "let us help you go home" but they might as well have read "you are not wanted here".
In the words of the Home Office, the poster campaign was designed to provide sensitive advice and assistance to failed asylum seekers. Everyone else, from politicians to religious leaders, from activists to support workers, believed it was a crass, insensitive and unpleasant campaign foisted on a city that has a tradition of accepting asylum seekers.
Now, just a few weeks after they first went up, the posters are coming down for good and it is welcome news. Officially, it is the end of a trial period but, in reality, like the go-home vans which the Home Office sent round London before putting the brake on the scheme a few weeks later, it is the ignominious end to a shameful experiment in immigration policy.
The policy failed on two counts. First, it set the wrong tone even for those who want immigration reduced (even Nigel Farage of Ukip criticised the campaign). This failure of tone was particularly the case in Glasgow, which has accepted asylum seekers without the friction that has been seen in other parts of the UK.
How badly the UKBA got it wrong could be seen by the unanimity of the response to the posters in Scotland. Those who criticised them included Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, Gordon Matheson, the leader of the city council and many others. They saw that the posters were a threat to good community relationships. But, as well as the failure of the campaign to strike the right tone, it also got it wrong in practical terms. Even taking the best estimate on the results of the vans' pilot (the Home Office's) it is likely that only 11 illegal immigrants left the UK as a result. It will be a huge surprise if the posters in the UKBA offices are any more effective.
Another practical and moral question dogged the campaign. Many of the people whose claims for asylum are being considered by the UK Government are fleeing the possibility of torture, prison or death. Could it ever have been right to urge those people to go home?
Of course, if an asylum seeker genuinely wants to return to their native country, they should be helped to do so but, equally, the claims of asylum seekers should be considered in a fair, calm and open manner. The process should also be free of the kind of language we saw on those posters, language likely to make vulnerable people feel even more vulnerable or, worse, encourage negative attitudes.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.