Smugglers using social media to lure migrants

Smugglers use social media to contact would-be migrants.

TMP – 14/12/2017

Smugglers are using social media, in particular Facebook, to lure victims to Europe with false promises of jobs, International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Leonard Doyle said.

Smugglers who traffic migrants out of their home countries also film the migrants being tortured and send the videos to their families over WhatsApp as a means of extortion, he added.

The key role of social media in human trafficking has led the IOM to call on social media companies to make it harder for people smugglers to use their platforms to lure African migrants to Europe. Many of these migrants pass through Libya, which has become a hub for the smuggling of migrants to Europe, where they often face detention, torture, slavery or death.

“We ask social media companies to step up and behave in a responsible way when people are being lured to deaths, to their torture,” Doyle told a Geneva news briefing.

Although the exact number is not known, tens of thousands of migrants are thought to be trapped in Libya, detained in detention centres, sold into slavery or held captive by smugglers.

IOM has discussed its concerns with social media providers, Doyle said, adding: “And so far to very little effect. What they say is ‘please tell us the pages and we will shut them down’.”

Africa represents a big and expanding market for social media but many people are unemployed and vulnerable, Doyle said. Social media companies are “giving a turbo-charged communications channel to criminals, to smugglers, to traffickers, to exploiters”, he added.
Images broadcast by CNN last month appeared to show migrants being auctioned off as slaves by Libyan traffickers. This sparked anger in Europe and Africa and highlighted the risks migrants face.

The IOM has helped 13,000 migrants to return home voluntarily from Libya so far this year. The organization provides migrants with transport and pocket money and documents their often harrowing testimonies.