United Nations refugee agency UNHCR claims they have discovered people smugglers using Facebook to entice migrants to make the trip to Europe.
Representatives from the UNCHR spoke to journalists in Vienna, Austria, on Monday describing how people smugglers use social media to sell their services to migrants, often forcing them to spend thousands of euros. The smugglers even go so far as to claim that all migrants travelling with them will get a “100 per cent recognition rate” and will be accepted for asylum, reports Der Standard.
Austrian Melita Sunjic heads the UNCHR investigation team which actively searches through hundreds of pages on Facebook and Youtube for smuggling advertisements, looking at ads made in Arabic and the Afghan languages of Pashtun and Dari.
The ads they find often make spurious claims like being able to take migrants to any European country they desire and when they get there guaranteeing that they will be granted asylum.
Often the posts read like adverts for normal products and services with smugglers making claims that they have been in business for “25 years” or that they are “100 per cent legal and affordable”. Some migrants who have used the smugglers’ services to travel to Europe have even posted reviews of their experiences.
Investigators noted that since the closure of the Balkan route, prices for smuggling have risen considerably. Costs for migrants in Turkey to get to Germany or the UK can amount to as much as €9,000 per person.
Ms. Sunjic detailed that a major problem were promises made by the smugglers who claimed Europe was a “continent of prosperity” and the migrants would be taken care of. Expectations are often shattered once migrants make it to Europe, and this has resulted in some using people smugglers to return home.
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is set to continue the work of the UNHCR in the coming year as they announced plans to monitor social media and attempt to counter the narratives put forward by the smugglers.
Earlier this year, Breitbart London reported that Interpol was also keenly aware that smugglers were using social media as an advertisement platform.
Allegations have also been made that a large portion of the people smuggling trade has been taken over by Islamic State and that much of the money collected by the smugglers goes toward financing the group. Gerald Tatzgern, the head of Austria’s anti-human trafficking force, claimed Islamic State were using the smuggling trade to make up for revenue losses incurred after U.S. and Russian airstrikes on their oil industry.