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Boris Johnson Slams Facebook Saying ‘Too Many Gangs Using Social Media’ to ‘Fuel' Migrant Crisis

© AFP 2021 / MARC SANYEA group of 80 migrants get on one of the inflatable boats to cross the Channel towards England at night, near Wimereux, northern France, on October 16, 2021
A group of 80 migrants get on one of the inflatable boats to cross the Channel towards England at night, near Wimereux, northern France, on October 16, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
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After 27 people died while attempting to cross the English Channel on 24 November in one of the worst migrant tragedies at sea in recent years, Sky News reported that a network of smugglers was operating openly on Facebook, showing explicit routes into Europe and the UK, and even offering to make customers a British passport.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has directed a barrage of criticism at Facebook and other social media companies after reports revealed that people smugglers were advertising their services to would-be migrants on their platforms.
According to Johnson, who addressed the issue during the Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, “too many of these gangs are using social media”, and are thus fueling the migrant crisis.
The Prime Minister had been asked by Damian Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, what measures were planned to crack down on the use of social media adverts for English Channel crossings.
Collins slammed as “totally unacceptable” reports that companies like Facebook were “allowing smugglers to offer their services on their platforms… selling them forged British papers in order to aid their access”.
When asked by the MP whether the draft Online Safety Bill, intended to improve internet safety and published on 12 May 2021 would be part of the measures employed, the Prime Minister touted the new legislation that he promised would be “of assistance to us in taking down that kind of material”.
© AP Photo / Richard DrewIn this March 29, 2018, file photo the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square
In this March 29, 2018, file photo the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
In this March 29, 2018, file photo the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square
The Bill would place a duty of care on tech companies, allowing users to post their own content or to interact with one another, to protect the aforementioned users from harmful content at pain of substantial fines levied by Ofcom. It would also empower the UK communications regulator to block access to particular websites. The bill has been criticised for its proposals to restrain the publication of "lawful but harmful" speech, as effectively creating a new form of censorship.
Continuing to address the issue of the migrant crisis that has plague the UK and soured relations with France, Boris Johnson defended UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s controversial plans to push back refugees on small boats in the Channel who are trying to reach the UK.
The new “turnback” policy is outlined in the Nationality and Borders Bill that is going before the House of Commons next week.
© REUTERS / HENRY NICHOLLSMigrants onboard a Border Force rescue boat wait to disembark at Dover harbour, after having crossed the channel, in Dover, Britain, November 24, 2021
Migrants onboard a Border Force rescue boat wait to disembark at Dover harbour, after having crossed the channel, in Dover, Britain, November 24, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.12.2021
Migrants onboard a Border Force rescue boat wait to disembark at Dover harbour, after having crossed the channel, in Dover, Britain, November 24, 2021
The plans have triggered cross-party criticism, with some MPs slamming them as potentially illegal and violating human rights obligations.
However, Johnson said the legislation offer the government much-needed aid “to fight the evil gangs who are predating on people’s willingness to cross the channel in un-seaworthy boats.”
“It gives Border Force the power to turn people back at sea, and it gives us the power to send people overseas for screening, rather than doing it in this country. I am not asking the Opposition but telling them: it would be a great thing if they backed our Nationality and Borders Bill and undermined the criminals,” said Boris Johnson.
The PM also said that the government’s overhaul of the Human Rights Act would help to tackle the “endless waves” of people crossing the Channel.
Earlier in October, speaking at the Tory party conference in Manchester, Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister and justice secretary pledged to overhaul the “nonsensical” Human Rights Act to prevent it from being “abused” by criminals.
According to Raab, this would help deal with two thirds of appeals against attempts by the government to deport foreign criminals.
Crossings have surged to 25,776 in 2021, up from 8,461 in 2020 and 1,835 in 2019, according to Home Office data. 27 people died trying to reach Britain in an overcrowded inflatable boat on 24 November in a tragedy that was the deadliest of its kind in the Channel.
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