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A Freedom of Information request has revealed the UK government spent £23,000 on adverts telling asylum seekers there is ‘nowhere to hide’.
The adverts, which featured on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram between December 2020 and April 2021, were paid for using taxpayer’s money and attempted to deter migrants from crossing the channel and seeking asylum in the UK.
Published in Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto, the adverts featured messages such as ‘There is no hiding place’, ‘Don’t put your or your child’s life in danger’ and ‘We will return you’, and were targeted at migrants living in northern France as they waited to cross the channel.
News of the adverts comes after record-breaking numbers of asylum seekers have arrived to the UK in recent weeks, with more than 430 people arriving into the UK on July 19 alone.
The cost of the ads was revealed by a Freedom of Information request made by Press Association, with the Home Office saying they succeeded in reaching thousands of people and highlighting the risks that comes with attempting to reach the UK.
In spite of the warnings on the adverts, however, it’s clear many migrants are still determined to make the journey as more than 7,000 people have reportedly travelled across the channel to the UK since the advert campaign came to an end in April.
One Sudanese man, who saw the pictures on Facebook, commented: ‘We know that crossing and taking a boat is really dangerous, but we don’t have the choice. UK is our only chance and better than Calais,’ the Press Association reports.
Migrant charity Care4Calais, which assisted many of the migrants living in France and who also saw the adverts, has criticised the campaign and described it as ‘wasting money’.
Founder Clare Moseley commented:
I’m genuinely horrified by the lengths this government will go to to avoid helping desperate people.
Refugees risk their lives to escape from some of the world’s most dangerous countries, fully aware that this could be the last journey they make. It’s extremely naïve of this government to think that social media ads will deter them. This isn’t a choice.
Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, said there has been an ‘unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings’ and that the adverts are ‘aimed at dissuading migrants in France and Belgium from making dangerous attempts to enter the UK’.
He added that as well as highlighting the risks of the journey, the adverts provided information on how migrants could claim asylum in the ‘safe country they are in’.
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