Channel death: Human traffickers shout openly on Facebook | UK News

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Finding a way across the channel is as easy as writing “smugglers” on Facebook.

Far from being a hidden world, Sky News has discovered that a network of smugglers appears open on the social media platform.

Routes to Europe and the UK are regularly highlighted, with posts featuring images of Union Jack and Big Ben.

A smuggler even claimed that he could make customers a British passport.

It comes as 27 people though at the same time trying to cross the canal, one of the worst death tolls in recent years.

Discussions about the best ways to cross the channel are also ongoing on Facebook
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Discussions about the best ways to cross the channel are also ongoing on Facebook

Many trying to pass comes from Iran, Syria and Iraq, among others, with a large number of Iraqi Kurds trying to make the dangerous journey.

Sky News searched Facebook for terms written in Kurdish and Arabic such as “smuggler” and “UK show”, as well as places like Calais, Dunkirk and England.

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These results led smugglers to advertise the routes, list their phone numbers and urge people to send messages to them privately for more information, such as costs.

There is no indication that Facebook is taking any revenue for the content.

This post claims that customers will legally be able to travel to the UK within three days and that the journey will be made in the “best, safest and easiest way”.

Smugglers post ads on Facebook, like this one that gives a phone number
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Smugglers post ads on Facebook, like this one that gives a phone number

One of the most productive smugglers who posts on Facebook is a man who says he lives in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

He says he can bring migrants to a number of countries, including the United Kingdom. In this ad, he markets a route from Dunkirk to the UK at “a reasonable price”.

This ad, which also contains a phone number, offers a number of routes such as Dunkirk to the UK
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This ad, which also contains a phone number, offers a number of routes such as Dunkirk to the UK

On his Facebook profile, he describes himself as putting “trust before profit”. His cover photo – a photo at the top of the page – is of a passport and boarding pass.

'Confidence before profit' is written in the 'intro' section of this smuggler's profile
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“Confidence before profit” is written in the “intro” part of this smuggler’s profile

He often posts several ads a week, many with the same wording. In his ads, he says he offers guarantees and to be able to deliver “lowest price and shortest time”.

Many of the ads are copied and pasted on various pages
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Many of the ads are copied and pasted on various pages

To encourage potential customers, the smuggler has issued a number of passports and visas that he claims to have secured.

A smuggler has uploaded a number of passports and visas that he claims to have secured for other migrants
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A smuggler has uploaded a number of passports and visas that he claims to have secured for other migrants

Like many other smugglers on the platform, he uses photos of landmarks to capture people’s attention.

Smugglers often post pictures of famous European landmarks in their ads
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Smugglers often post pictures of famous European landmarks in their ads

Here another smuggler puts up his ad along with pictures of Union Jack and Big Ben. In his post, he claims that he will be able to “make you a British passport”.

This smuggler claims he will be able to 'make you a British passport'
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This smuggler claims he will be able to “make you a British passport”

His offer is eye-catching, with 210 people liking the post and almost 30 comments published below it.

“Hi brother, I want to talk to you”, writes a man. “My dear brother, inbox me,” the smuggler writes back, urging him to send him a direct private message.

Images of European flagship aircraft are also used.

In addition to landmarks, photos of flag aircraft such as British Airways and Air France are included in the ads
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In addition to landmarks, photos of flag aircraft such as British Airways and Air France are included in the ads. There is no indication that any airlines are involved in helping the smugglers

In this ad, a smuggler presents both British Airways and Air France planes. The last picture in his post contains a phone number to call. The images on the airlines are used without permission and there is no indication that British Airways or Air France are aware that the images are used in this way.

Some ads do not rely on promises, guarantees and glossy images of the UK. A smuggler simply writes that he can take people from France to Britain and gives a number.

Those who want to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including costs
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Those who want to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including costs

Many ads are placed on pages that are mainly used for other reasons, ranging from general community pages to pages for an electronics store.

However, some pages have been created specifically to discuss smuggling and attract those who want to enter the UK and elsewhere.

An example of this is a group page called “Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee”. Its profile and cover photos are photos of migrants taken from news sites. It has almost 800 members.

The name of this site, which has almost 800 members, is 'Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee'
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The name of this site, which has almost 800 members, is “Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee”

One of the page’s most recent posts was published on November 10 and is of a video showing migrants in Dunkirk, France.

Another video shared on these pages includes one from the social media app TikTok. It shows part of the journey between Calais and the United Kingdom.

A TikTok video about crossing from Calais to France was also shared on one of the pages
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A TikTok video about crossing from Calais to France was also shared on one of the pages

It’s not just smugglers who post ads. People ask questions about costs and routes. They also share news about other migrant passages.

A man asks if a German visa would allow him to enter the UK. A profile that appears to belong to a smuggler replies that it would not work. The first man adds that if a person can get to Germany, they can try to get to Britain “on foot”.

Routes through Europe are also discussed
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Routes through Europe are also discussed

Another man asks how much it costs to get into the UK.

Those who want to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including costs
Picture:
Those who want to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including costs

Another shares the news of the high number of migrants who died on Wednesday.

The news of the deaths on Wednesday was widely shared on a number of migrant sites
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The news of the deaths on Wednesday was widely shared on a number of migrant sites

Five months ago, Priti Patel wrote to social media companies including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. She said more needed to be done to remove posts that are “glamorizing” dangerous migrant crossings.

A spokesperson for Meta, which owns Facebook, told Sky News: “Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by these tragic events.

“Coordinating human trafficking is not allowed on Facebook and we are cooperating with law enforcement agencies to address it.

“We use a combination of AI technology, human review and reports from our users and trusted partners to detect and delete posts like this.”

Sky News understands that the pages that Facebook has now noticed are under investigation and will be removed if they turn out to have violated the platform’s policies.


The Data and Forensics team is a versatile unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We collect, analyze and visualize data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling, we strive to better explain the world while showing how our journalism works.

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