The Home Office is launching an ad campaign targeting Albanian nationals to deter them from migrating to the UK.
The adverts, which will run in Albanian on Facebook and Instagram, will warn that people will “face being detained and removed” if they make the journey.
The government said the campaign, starting next week, would “make clear the perils” migrants on small boats face.
Labour said the move “beggars belief”, and the asylum system was “in chaos”.
According to the Home Office, Albania is a “safe and prosperous country” and many nationals “are travelling through multiple countries to make the journey to the UK” before making “spurious asylum claims when they arrive”.
The campaign follows a similar social media drive launched by the government in August last year.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the campaign would “work proactively at the source before people set off on dangerous and unnecessary journeys”.
Albania was the most common nationality applying for asylum in the UK in the year to March 2023, with 13,714 applications by Albanian citizens.
Between January and March, 1% of small-boat arrivals were from Albania.
Mr Jenrick said: “We are determined to stop the boats and the campaign, launching in Albania this week, is just one component of the Home Office’s work upstream to help dispel myths about illegal travel to the UK, explain the realities and combat the lies peddled by evil people-smugglers who profit from this vile trade.”
The government would not say how much the publicity drive is expected to cost.
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, called the campaign “pointless” and said it “repeats the myth that refugee migration is illegal”.
He said: “This is yet another pointless campaign that shows ministers refuse to understand that a small minority of the world’s refugees have very powerful reasons to come here.
“If the Government wanted to smash the smuggling gangs and stop people crossing the Channel in flimsy boats it would create more safe routes for refugees to travel here to claim asylum.”
Chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais Steve Smith said “no amount of taxpayer-funded PR spin” will deter refugees “from seeking a safe future”.
“Refugees have experienced some of the worst things imaginable from war and conflict to torture and human rights abuses.
“The only solution that will put people smugglers out of business, stop small boat crossings and save lives is to offer safe passage to refugees with a viable asylum claim in the UK.”
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It beggars belief that as Channel crossings continue to rise and the asylum system is in chaos, all the Conservatives can come up with to stop the criminal gangs is an ad campaign.
“At every turn, the Tories so-called solutions fail to meet the scale of the crisis. All they are doing is tinkering at the edges.”
The campaign follows the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to send asylum seekers who arrive in Britain via unauthorised routes back home or to a third country such as Rwanda.
Ministers also hope the legislation will cut the daily £5.5m cost of housing migrants who make it to the UK.
The Bill, currently in the House of Lords, has faced backlash from public figures and campaigners including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who argue that it is both unworkable and “morally unacceptable”.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-65735660