He created a bogus organization called On The Move, with a glossy logo and trademark, which claims to “provide migrants in transit with free, reliable and important information.”
Links to the website have been disseminated to asylum seekers in France and Belgium as part of a social media campaign which cost the government £ 23,000 over five months.
The website, using a .org domain typically associated with charities, does not contain any government marks and the “about us” section does not disclose any links to the Home Office.
Search by The independent shows that the website was created in April 2020, using a private registration tool that conceals the personal information of the owners.
He invites asylum seekers to email On The Move questions, unaware they would contact the UK government.
The website, which remains online, tells readers that the UK ‘routinely returns people who enter via irregular routes’, but in reality Britain has not been able to deport the applicants. asylum to EU countries since January 1 due to Brexit.
He also claims that running a dinghy across the Channel “is a crime”, although controversial prosecutions against boat pilots have recently been limited.
“We need an asylum policy that focuses on tackling gangs that profit from human trafficking, reopening safe and legal roads and dropping the ineffective government bill that violates the Refugee Convention.
The website was created as part of a campaign with which the Home Office “aimed to deter migrants in France and Belgium from attempting to enter the UK illegally”.
An access to information request from the PA news agency revealed that it paid £ 23,200 for targeted ads to be placed on Facebook and Instagram in English, Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto between December and April .
All linked to the On The Move website and carried slogans such as ‘don’t put your life or your child’s life in danger’, ‘we will bring you back’ and ‘there is no hiding place’.
Clare Moseley, founder of the charity Care4Calais, said: “I am shocked that our government is determined to spend more time and money on deterring and misleading the vulnerable.
“Those who arrive on our shores are often traumatized, having taken life-threatening journeys to escape some of the world’s most dangerous countries. It is high time for this government to show compassion and come together to help.
Anyone visiting the On The Move website is first asked if they “plan to visit the UK irregularly”.
Those who click “yes” are taken to a page with links to the dangers of travel, “legal risks” and the “realities” of life in Europe.
The website has a page on ‘safe and legal alternatives’, but none of them detail how to seek asylum in the UK in particular, or how to reach Britain.
Instead, it focuses on France, Belgium and other EU countries, or directs asylum seekers to information on how to ‘voluntarily return to their country of origin’.
The Home Office said posts linked to the website were created from its “clearly marked” official Facebook and Instagram accounts as part of its campaign.
He said the publications on the prosecution for steering boats predated changes to the Crown Prosecution Service guidelines, and maintained he could still deport asylum seekers.
The website was created amid a record number of small boat crossings over the English Channel, which have increased despite an overall drop in asylum claims due to changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Home Office lobbied to jail asylum seekers who operate small boats as “people smugglers” and the Nationality and Borders Bill, if enacted, would criminalize any migrant which crosses the Channel by creating a new criminal offense.
It would also make it easier to prosecute migrants for steering boats or helping asylum seekers arriving on irregular routes.
Dan O’Mahoney, the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, said: “We are seeing an unacceptable increase in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings.
“The Migrants Communication Campaign aimed to deter migrants located in France and Belgium who intended to make dangerous attempts to enter the UK by small boat or hidden in lorries during the winter months .
“The campaign featured a series of important messages, highlighting the risk to life of making these deadly journeys and providing information on seeking asylum in the safe country in which they are located. We have no excuse for providing important and potentially vital information.