Social media companies must do better in removing posts that are “glamourising” dangerous migrant crossings, the home secretary says.
Priti Patel wrote to the companies on Saturday to say they must deal with the “totally unacceptable” posts promoting the “lethal crossings”.
Among them is a video on TikTok which has been watched more than 800,000 times and appears to show a group of men crossing the Channel in a dinghy.
Similar posts have also appeared on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, advertising illegal boat crossings and fake passport and visa services.
Ms 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.
“Working with the National Crime Agency, social media companies have made progress in removing these horrendous posts, but they must quickly and proactively remove posts related to illegal crossings before more men, women and children die in the Channel. Now is the time to act before it is too late.”
Immigration minister Chris Philp met representatives of the main social media companies earlier this year, asking for adverts promoting the crossings to be removed.
At the time, it was reported that less than half of removal requests made by the National Crime Agency were being acted upon.
The number of people crossing the 21-mile stretch of water has almost doubled so far this year compared with the same period last year, with more than 3,100 having reached the English coast by the end of May.
Almost 600 migrants were intercepted attempting to make the crossing over three days this past week.
French authorities dealt with eight incidents involving 130 people on Friday, and the UK dealt with four boats involving 83 people.
Some 201 people were stopped by Border Force officers in eight incidents on Thursday.
And the French authorities intercepted nine crossings on Wednesday and Thursday, preventing 171 people from reaching the UK.
A number of traditional Channel routes have been closed in recent months, meaning migrants have to launch from anywhere along 120 miles of coastline in an effort to evade detection, meaning they can end up spending up to 13 hours at sea.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “This government’s approach to tackling Channel crossings isn’t working and is destined to fail.
“The reality is that when fleeing war, terror and persecution, ordinary people are forced to take extraordinary steps to seek safety in another country.
“Instead of relying solely on an enforcement approach to stop the crossings, this government needs to expand safe routes so that people don’t have to risk their lives taking dangerous journeys at the mercy of criminals and people smugglers.
“Creating safe and regular routes to the UK – through an expanded resettlement programme, humanitarian visas and reforming the restrictive family reunion rules – is the way to effectively address the issue.”