Original article from Kent Live
Record numbers of people have risked their lives crossing the Channel in dinghies this year – despite the first three months of 2021 showing fewer asylum applications than the same period over the last four years.
The crossings in unsafe dinghies have continued despite various attempts by the Home Office to stop them and make the route “unviable”.
In recent weeks, a new way of discouraging refugees and asylum seekers has been employed by the Home Office – in the form of Facebook ads.
More than £23,000 has been spent on social media ads targeted at migrants living in France featuring slogans such as “There is no hiding place”, “Don’t put your or your child’s life in danger” and “We will return you."
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These phrases have also been translated into Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto.
These slogans, simply put, directly contradict international law on refugees – yet the Home Office is still spending taxpayer money on them.
Contrary to popular knowledge, the idea that refugees have to stop in the first safe country they arrive in is not correct under international law
In fact, it is EU law that allows some refugees to be returned to the first country they entered in to – but this is not a hard and fast rule.
Regardless, with Britain leaving the EU and the relevant EU agreement, we are no longer part of this arrangement.
So what does international law say?
The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees is the basis for how countries such as the UK legislate on asylum seekers and refugees.
However, the Home Office's ads do not make clear what the Home Office is actually able to do legally.
Specifically, the idea that "there is no hiding place," or that the Home Office "will return you," appear to break articles 32 and 33 of the convention.
These rules state that no country can expel refugees, nor 'refoul' them by sending them back to a country they have fled from.
Other rules stipulated by the convention are that no country can impose a penalty on refugees who entered their country illegally, as long as those refugees 'present themselves without delay', and that no member country can discriminate against refugees.
This is not a set of laws forced on the UK – but laws we had a hand in creating in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Britain was party to, and signed up for this agreement at a point in history where war on an unprecedented scale displaced millions across the globe.
During the war, the UK took in large numbers of refugees, many of whom were unaccompanied German Jewish children – and the convention was originally created in 1951 to specifically help those still displaced in Europe after the war.
As for the ads themselves, the Home Office haven't actually broken any of the articles of the refugee convention.
However, they continue perpetuate the unfounded idea that refugees are required to stop at the first safe country they enter.
At present, though, there is no mechanism to enforce these articles or ensure compliance with the agreement.
Response to the ads
Many of those who saw the campaign on Facebook and Instagram are people who have been assisted by migrant charity Care4Calais while living in France.
Founder Clare Moseley accused the Home Office of “wasting money” and called on the Government to step up to help refugees.
She added: “It’s extremely naïve of this Government to think that social media ads will deter them. This isn’t a choice.”
One Sudanese man who saw the pictures on Facebook said: “We know that crossing and taking a boat is really dangerous, but we don’t have the choice.
"UK is our only chance and better than Calais.”
A 21-year-old man from Gambia called for safer routes to the UK and improvements in conditions in Calais.
He said: “They are complaining, but our conditions is very hard. Everyone need good life, everyone need to leave here.”
A 20-year-old Sudanese man said: “I am ready to die, but I still have faith that I will cross OK.”
Dan O’Mahoney, Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the Home Office, said: “We are seeing an unacceptable rise in dangerous and unnecessary small boat crossings.
“The adverts are aimed at dissuading migrants in France and Belgium from making dangerous attempts to enter the UK.
“They have reached thousands of migrants highlighting the risk to life of making these journeys and providing information on claiming asylum in the safe country they are in.”
KentLive has requested further comment from the Home Office on the ads, but they did not respond in time for publication.