The Home Office has found itself at the centre of a Twitter storm amid mounting criticism of its tactics to crack down on illegal immigration.

Users of the service poured scorn on the government department’sofficial Twitter account as it posted details of raids made against people suspected of working illegally in the UK.

The account posted several updates on arrests, including pixelated photos of suspects, made at locations including London, Durham, Manchester, Wales and Somerset.

The Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker tweeted: “Hey @ukhomeoffice why not make your tweet-a-long-a-stormtroop gallery of brown folk thrown in vans even more dystopian by using cattleprods?”

Comedian David Schneider tweeted: “I’m enjoying @ukhomeoffice’s tweeting of the preliminary rounds of the UK Hunger Games.”

The tweets were tagged with the hashtag #immigrationoffenders. While most posts mentioned those targeted were suspects, one did not.

A post stating that 139 people had been arrested on Thursday links to a government web page headlined “Immigration offenders arrested in Home Office operations”, which twice describes those arrested as offenders before mentioning they are at this stage merely suspects.

The immigration minister, Mark Harper, said: in a statement: “Today’s operations highlight the routine work we are carrying out every day to stamp out illegal working. We are sending a clear message to employers who choose to use illegal labour – we will find you and you will pay a heavy penalty.”

But David Allen Green, legal correspondent for the New Statesman, tweeted: “For the @ukhomeoffice to say those arrested are already #immigrationoffenders is to prejudge their cases and possibly contempt.”

Mirror columnist Susie Boniface aka Fleet Street Fox tweeted: “If we all reported @ukhomeoffice as spam they can’t deport us. DO IT. At least I don’t think they could deport us. They’d probably try. Especially if we looked a bit tanned.”

The tweets follow the controversial anti-immigration advertising campaign targeting racially mixed areas of London.

The campaign has used mobile billboards warning illegal immigrants to “go home or face arrest”.

The adverts are being challenged through the courts and have been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by a Labour peer.

Independent columnist Owen Jones criticised the Home Office tweets for continuing the government’s hardcore rhetoric on immigration, criticising them as an attempt to win back voters from Ukip.

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