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”.
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”.
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.
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”.
To encourage potential customers, the smuggler has issued a number of passports and visas that he claims to have secured.
Like many other smugglers on the platform, he uses photos of landmarks to capture people’s attention.
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”.
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 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.
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.
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.
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”.
Another man asks how much it costs to get into the UK.
Another shares the news of the high number of migrants who died on Wednesday.
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.