UK urges social media companies to remove posts that ‘glamourise’ migrant crossings

Home Secretary Priti Patel: ‘Lethal’ journeys across English Channel promoted by Facebook posts

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to the harbour in Dover, Kent, England following a small boat incident in the English Channel earlier this morning, Thursday June 3, 2021. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
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British Home Secretary Priti Patel urged social media companies to remove online content that "glamourises" dangerous migrant crossings.

Her call came as council leaders in Kent – where most migrants land after crossing the English Channel in small boats launched in France – said they were at the “breaking point” of their ability to rehome minors.

The council is preparing to take legal action against the Home Office to ensure migrants are resettled in other parts of the country.

Ms Patel believes viral clips posted on social media are encouraging migrants to make the "lethal crossings".

In a letter to social media companies including Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, she said "now is the time to act" by removing the messages.

“Posts which promote and even glamourise these lethal crossings are totally unacceptable. They encourage others to leave a safe European country and put theirs and their family’s life at risk and are even used by people smugglers to promote their deadly business,” she said.

“What these posts don’t mention are the people who have died trying to make this crossing, or those forced to spend 13 hours in unseaworthy boats in freezing waters.”

She said British law enforcement officials were working with social media companies on the issue but she was not satisfied with the response.

“They must quickly and proactively remove posts related to illegal crossings before more men, women and children die in the Channel,” she said.

“Now is the time to act before it is too late.”

The number of people crossing the world's biggest shipping lane, the Dover Strait, in dinghies has almost doubled so far in 2021 compared with the same period in 2020, with more than 3,100 landing on the English coast by the end of May.

People take part in an anti-immigration protest in Dover, England, Saturday, May 29, 2021, demonstrating against the journeys made by refugees crossing the English Channel to Kent. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
A protest in Dover demonstrates agains the journeys made by migrants across the English Channel. AP

Kent County Council is considering bringing a judicial review against Ms Patel as early as next week to force the government to resettle child migrants in other parts of the country.

The council, which is legally required to accommodate the minors, estimates it rehomed 115 last month, compared with 64 in May 2020.

“We are at breaking point,” said Matt Dunkley, Kent’s corporate director of children’s services.

“Underneath this there is a humanitarian crisis involving traumatised young people who deserve the best support, and we are being forced into a standoff with the government over their care and wellbeing.”

Meanwhile, the Home Office is investigating an incident where migrants attempting to cross the Channel were reportedly picked up in French waters by the UK Border Force and taken to Dover.

The move was orchestrated between senior crew members of the British cutter HMC Valiant and French patrol ship Athos on May 29.

The ISU, the union representing border workers, said French authorities should have rescued the migrants.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the UK government should accept more migrants to stop dangerous crossings.

“Instead of relying solely on an enforcement approach to stop the crossings, this government needs to expand safe routes so that people don’t have to risk their lives taking dangerous journeys at the mercy of criminals and people smugglers,” he said.

“Creating safe and regular routes to the UK – through an expanded resettlement programme, humanitarian visas and reforming the restrictive family reunion rules – is the way to effectively address the issue.”