Home Office aims to deter Channel crossings from Albania with ad campaign

The Home Office is aiming to deter Channel crossings to the UK with a social media ad campaign targeting Albanian nationals.

The publicity drive, which will run on Facebook and Instagram from next week, will warn people they “face being detained and removed” if they make the journey.

Opposition critics and charities have branded the campaign a “gimmick”, with Labour accusing the Government of “tinkering at the edges” of an asylum system “in chaos”.

The Home Office would not say how much the publicity drive is expected to cost.

It follows a similar campaign launched in August last year, when adverts ran in Albanian on Facebook and Instagram to deter people from making the journey.

Record numbers of people crossed the channel last year and more than 6,000 have been detected making the journey so far in 2023.

But the number of Albanian small boat arrivals peaked during the summer of 2022 and by early 2023 had dropped below levels seen in 2021, according to Government figures.

According to the Home Office, Albania is a “safe and prosperous country” and many nationals “are travelling through multiple countries to make the journey to the UK” before making “spurious asylum claims when they arrive”.

It was the most common nationality applying for asylum in the UK in the year to March 2023, with 13,714 applications by Albanian citizens, 9,487 of which came from arrivals on boats crossing the English Channel.

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said: “Organised immigration crime is a global challenge which requires international solutions the whole way along the migration route.

“That includes working proactively at source before people set off on dangerous and unnecessary journeys.

“We are determined to stop the boats and the campaign, launching in Albania this week, is just one component of the Home Office’s work upstream to help dispel myths about illegal travel to the UK, explain the realities and combat the lies peddled by evil people-smugglers who profit from this vile trade.”

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “This is yet another pointless campaign that shows ministers refuse to understand that a small minority of the world’s refugees have very powerful reasons to come here.

“It also repeats the myth that refugee migration is illegal when in fact a person’s right to enter a country to claim asylum is protected by a Refugee Convention we helped create.

“If the Government wanted to smash the smuggling gangs and stop people crossing the Channel in flimsy boats it would create more safe routes for refugees to travel here to claim asylum.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Tories’ “so-called solutions” to tackle the migrant crisis have failed “at every turn”.

She said: “It beggars belief that as Channel crossings continue to rise and the asylum system is in chaos, all the Conservatives can come up with to stop the criminal gangs is an ad campaign.

“At every turn, the Tories so-called solutions fail to meet the scale of the crisis. All they are doing is tinkering at the edges.”