Organised smuggling gangs are using social media to advertise destination countries in Europe to potential migrants. In a bid to sell various smuggling packages to people seeking a better life, the gangs are offering ‘pro-tips’ on European countries, including giving breakdowns of the benefits on offer and the strength of border control, so that migrants can choose their perfect location.
Rob Wainwright, the director of Interpol has said that his organisation has identified 3,000 smugglers, suspected of bringing thousands of migrants into European countries, including the UK, from Africa and the Middle East, the Sunday Times has reported.
Currently, Interpol is conducting 130 investigations into smuggling, including 13 in the UK. Wainwright said that the smugglers were using social media to advertise their services to potential clients.
“They [the smugglers] are trying to attract a greater number of people, saying, ‘We can get you to Europe, we can get you to the UK’, and also an online layman’s guide for which countries offer, for example, the best social welfare benefits [and] which countries have the strongest border controls,” he said.
Dozens of pages offering to smuggle people into Europe have popped up on Facebook. One, apparently run by a man in Cairo, featured a range of “How to” guides, including sections entitled “Tourism in Britain” and “Restaurants in London”.
Such is the scale of social media use that, in July, Europol began using software originally designed to take down propaganda posted by ISIS to remove the adverts. “We are putting a lot of effort into that, working with social media firms to take down these sites,” Wainwright said. “The level of sophistication is increasing.”
He explained that between them, the gangs offered a whole range of services in much the same way that the tourist market provides a range of travel options, from budget to luxury.
“There are some that offer an end-to-end service where they say, ‘We can get you to France or the UK through different stages of the journey’, and giving you false documentation for a set-fee of $15,000 [£9,500],” he said.
“Others paying less will make five or six different hops along that route, being passed to different criminal groups each time.”
Wainwright also confirmed that British gangs were among those involved in the movement of people from Calais to Dover. Some 5,000 people are now camped at the French port looking for access into the UK.
Immigration has now topped the list of voters concerns, with nearly half of those questioned in a recent poll citing it as their number one worry.
Bobby Duffy of Ipsos MORI said: “We have never seen concern about immigration this high, and when one single issue reaches 50 per cent it tends to signify that the public perceive that is something which needs to be addressed urgently.”