UK Govt to Target Illegal Migrants’ Smartphones with Ads Asking Them Not to Come

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Britain’s Home Office is planning to bombard illegal migrants’ smartphones with Facebook adverts asking them to not cross the English Channel, according to reports.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose department is broadly responsible for borders, policing, and national security, hopes that targeting supposedly desperate migrants camped along France’s northern coast with discouraging messages in languages such as Kurdish may put a dent in the record illegal sea crossings which have been embarrassing Boris Johnson’s government for months now.

The ads will contain such missives as “If you arrive in the UK illegally from a safe country like France, we can and will return you” and “People die making these crossings, do not risk your life”, according to The Sun.

The former warning may ring somewhat hollow, given the British authorities do not immediately turn back any of the many boats they intercept at sea, instead of escorting them the rest of the way to Britain, and only pursue deportations against a tiny fraction of those who land — and even then, many removals are stopped by eleventh-hour legal and judicial interventions.

The crossings do appear to be becoming more dangerous as the weather worsens, however, with a drowned man found on a beach near Sangatte on Sunday believed to have died attempting to reach England.

The ad campaign rumours come as another eleven boats carrying over 100 migrants were said to have been intercepted in the Channel on Sunday — despite high winds having made crossings more difficult recently — and brought the rest of the way to England, with at least one boat set to have been escorted into British waters by a French warship.

The French have previously suggested that they are not able to intercept boats whose crews do not explicitly request their assistance, or that the passengers threaten to throw children overboard if they get too close — although neither the British nor the French authorities have ever given any indication that they attempted to pursue charges against anyone for such threats.

Shocking footage from the ITV exposé Hunting the People Smugglers showed one very young girl being ordered onto a cramped boat in pitch darkness crying and pleading “I don’t want to go, Daddy.”

The Sun reports that “FIFTY ‘ruthless’ people smugglers have been jailed this year alone… for a total of 124 years,” according to the Home Office, with Patel insisting that “We are throwing the full force of the law at the organised crime gangs whose actions put desperate people in real danger.”

However, 124 years spread between 50 people actually amounts to only very short spells in custody on an individual basis, especially when it is recalled that criminals given non-“life” sentences in Britain are almost all entitled to automatic early release on licence halfway or, at most, two-thirds of the way through their terms.

The Facebook adverts warning migrants off travelling to Britain recall a similar campaign led by the Danish government in 2015, which took out newspaper advertisements in foreign countries which migrants travel through on their ways to northern Europe, telling them not to come. The advertisements told would-be migrants that the Danish government was severely cutting benefits for newly arrived migrants, with Danish then-integration minister Inger Støjberg remarking “That kind of information spreads very quickly.”

Radical pro-mass migration groups were quick in their attempts to counter the message though, also taking out adverts in foreign newspapers telling migrants to come anyway, promising a “warm welcome” from activists.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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