Home secretary accused of deflecting blame from government policies after letter to social media companies
has been accused of attempting to deflect blame from the UK government’s failure to assist refugees after she told social media companies to remove posts that “glamourise” migrant crossings.
The home secretary wrote to firms on Saturday urging them to do more to remove “totally unacceptable clips” that she said promote “lethal crossings”.
The letter followed a viral video posted on TikTok that the Home Office said appeared to show a group of men crossing the Channel in a dinghy. It said similar posts on Facebook
, Instagram and Twitter had been used by people smugglers to promote crossings.
However, campaigners suggested Patel should look closer to home when examining the reasons why people resorted to such desperate measures.
Minnie Rahman, the campaigns director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “Social media companies have a responsibility to keep people safe, but it is no surprise that Patel is looking to the place the blame outside the Home Office.
“Patel has chosen to take a frantic, chaotic and irresponsible approach to the asylum system, which will only push desperate people further into the hands of people smugglers and traffickers, and make journeys more deadly. The government must stop ignoring all evidence, stay committed to the refugee convention and ensure that people are able to travel to the UK safely.”
Almost 600 migrants were intercepted attempting to cross the Channel in three days last week. In the first four months of this year, the total number making the crossing – 2,108 – was more than double the 896 who crossed in the same period last year.
Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, which supports asylum seekers in northern France and in the UK, said: “There is nothing remotely glamorous about Channel crossings. Desperate people put their lives at risk to make this journey and for some it is the last trip they make.
“Despite the fact that most refugees don’t choose to come to the UK, there are those who have their only remaining family here or have other connections that are strong enough to be worth risking their lives for. In these desperate cases the lack of a safe alternative pathway makes a dangerous trip in an unsuitable boat the only viable option.”
Campaign groups have repeatedly warned that the UK government’s approach, which focuses largely on physically obstructing the crossings, would not deter migrants from attempting the dangerous journey. Last year, four members of the same family died trying to cross the Channel in high winds after two failed attempts to reach Britain.
Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “There are limits to what this government can achieve by seeking to tackle people smuggling through addressing social media posts and taking an enforcement and deterrence approach.
“Creating safe routes to the UK – through an expanded resettlement programme, humanitarian visas, and reforming the restrictive family reunion rules – is what this government needs to be focusing on to address the issue.”
In her letter, Patel said: “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.
“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.”