A controversial government poster campaign telling illegal immigrants to go home or face arrest is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Sixty complaints have been lodged with the watchdog over poster vans which were driven around six London boroughs at the end of July. The poster, accused by human rights campaigners of being racially divisive and provocative, bore the message, "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest."

Critics of the scheme accused the Home Office, which funded the vans, of stoking racial tensions in multicultural communities by using the loaded phrase "go home" - a throwback to the openly racist slogans of the 60s and 70s.

The Home Office claimed that the £10,000 campaign was working and had persuaded illegal immigrants to come forward for repatriation.

An ASA spokesman said: "Complainants have expressed concerns that the ad, in particular the phrase 'go home', is offensive and irresponsible because it is reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past and could incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multicultural communities.

"Separately, some complainants have challenged whether the claim '106 arrests last week in your area' is misleading."

A Home Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that we are in contact with the Advertising Standards Authority over this investigation and will respond in due course."

The campaign used two vans in parts of London with high levels of immigrants. They were Barnet, Hounslow, Ealing, Brent, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham.

Chris Bryant, Labour's shadow immigration minister, said: "This is another embarrassing blow to a government which continues to fail to deal with immigration.

"With more people absconding at the border and fewer illegal immigrants being returned, David Cameron and Theresa May can't even get the basics right, stumbling from one shambles to another.

"You've got to question the government's competence. We need effective action on immigration, not offensive stunts."