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Channel deaths: People smugglers touting openly on Facebook | UK News

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Finding a route across the channel is as easy as typing “smuggler” into Facebook.

Far from being a hidden world, Sky News has found that a network of smugglers is operating openly on the social media platform.

Routes into Europe and the UK are regularly highlighted, with posts featuring images of the Union Jack and Big Ben.

One smuggler even claimed he would be able to make customers a British passport.

It comes as 27 people died while attempting to cross the Channel, one of the worst death tolls in recent years.

Discussions about the best ways to cross the channel are also taking place on Facebook
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Discussions about the best ways to cross the channel are also taking place on Facebook

Many who attempt the crossing come from counties including Iran, Syria and Iraq, with high numbers of Iraqi Kurds attempting to make the dangerous journey.

Sky News searched Facebook for terms written in Kurdish and Arabic such as “smuggler” and “UK visa”, as well as locations such as Calais, Dunkirk and England.

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These results brought up smugglers advertising the routes, listing their phone numbers and inviting people to message them privately for more information, such as costs.

There is no suggestion Facebook is taking any revenue for the content.

This post claims customers will be able to legally travel into the UK within three days and that the journey will be done in the “best, safest and easiest way”.

Smugglers are posting adverts on Facebook, such as this one which provides a phone number
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Smugglers are posting adverts on Facebook, such as this one which provides a phone number

One of the most prolific smugglers posting onto Facebook is a man who says he lives in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

He claims to be able to get migrants into a number of countries, including the UK. In this advert he promotes a route from Dunkirk to the United Kingdom at “a reasonable price”.

This advert, which also includes a phone number, offers a number of routes such as Dunkirk to the UK
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This advert, which also includes a phone number, offers a number of routes such as Dunkirk to the UK

On his Facebook profile, he describes himself as putting “trust before profit”. His cover photo – a photo at the top of the page – is of a passport and boarding card.

'Trust before profit' is written in the 'intro' section of this smuggler's profile
Image:
‘Trust before profit’ is written in the ‘intro’ section of this smuggler’s profile

He often posts several adverts a week, many with the same wording. In his adverts he claims to offer guarantees as well as being able to deliver “the lowest price and the shortest time”.

Many of the adverts are copied and pasted across different pages
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Many of the adverts are copied and pasted across different pages

To encourage prospective customers, the smuggler has posted a number of passports and visas he claims to have secured.

One smuggler has uploaded a number of passports and visas he claims to have secured for other migrants
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One smuggler has uploaded a number of passports and visas he claims to have secured for other migrants

Like many other smugglers on the platform, he uses photos of landmarks to help catch people’s attention.

Smugglers often post pictures of famous European landmarks in their adverts
Image:
Smugglers often post pictures of famous European landmarks in their adverts

Here, a different smuggler posts his advert alongside pictures of the Union Jack and Big Ben. In his post he claims he will be able to “make you a British passport”.

This smuggler claims he will be able to 'make you a British passport'
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This smuggler claims he will be able to ‘make you a British passport’

His offer is eye-catching, with 210 people liking the post and almost 30 comments posted beneath it.

“Hello brother, I want to talk to you,” one man writes. “My dear brother, inbox me”, the smuggler writes back, inviting him to send him a direct private message.

Images of European flag carrier planes are also used.

As well as landmarks, photos of flag carrier planes such as British Airways and Air France form part of the adverts
Image:
As well as landmarks, photos of flag carrier planes such as British Airways and Air France form part of the adverts. There’s no indication any airlines are involved in aiding the smugglers

In this advert, a smuggler features both British Airways and Air France planes. The final image in his post includes a phone number to call. The photos of the airlines are used without permission and there is no indication that British Airways or Air France are aware the images are being used in this way.

Some adverts do not rely on promises, guarantees and glossy images of the UK. One smuggler simply posts that he can take people from France to Britain and provides a number.

Those looking to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including on costs
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Those looking to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including on costs

Many adverts are posted into pages used primarily for other reasons, ranging from general community pages to those for an electronic goods store.

However, some pages are set up specifically to discuss smuggling and attract those looking to get into the UK and elsewhere.

One example of this is a group page called “Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee”. Its profile and cover photos are images of migrants taken from news sites. It has almost 800 members.

The name of this page, which has almost 800 members, is 'Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee'
Image:
The name of this page, which has almost 800 members, is ‘Smuggling to Europe with a guarantee’

One of the page’s most recent posts was published on 10 November and is of a video showing migrants in Dunkirk, France.

Another video shared on these pages includes one from social media app TikTok. It shows part of the journey between Calais and the UK.

A TikTok video about crossing from Calais to France was also shared on one of the pages
Image:
A TikTok video about crossing from Calais to France was also shared on one of the pages

It’s not just smugglers posting adverts. People post questions about costs and routes. They also share news about other migrant crossings.

One man asks if a German visa would enable him to enter Britain. A profile which appears to belong to a smuggler replies that it wouldn’t work. The first man adds if a person can get to Germany, they could attempt to get to the UK “by foot”.

Routes through Europe are also discussed
Image:
Routes through Europe are also discussed

Another man asks how much it costs to get into Britain.

Those looking to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including on costs
Image:
Those looking to be smuggled use the platform to ask questions, including on costs

Another shares the news of the high number of migrants who died on Wednesday.

News of the deaths on Wednesday were shared widely on a number of migrant pages
Image:
News of the deaths on Wednesday were shared widely on a number of migrant pages

Five months ago, Priti Patel wrote to social media companies including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. She said more needed to be done to remove posts that are “glamourising” dangerous migrant crossings.

A spokesperson for Meta, who own Facebook, told Sky News: “Our thoughts go out to all those affected by these tragic events.

“Co-ordinating people smuggling is not allowed on Facebook and we work with law enforcement to tackle it.

“We use a combination of AI technology, human review and reports from our users and trusted partners to detect and remove posts like this.”

Sky News understands the pages brought to the attention of Facebook are now under investigation and will be removed if they are found to have violated the platform’s policies.


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

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Bitcoin ‘flash crash’ sees long positions worth $2bn closed by exchanges | Business News

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A so-called “flash crash” for Bitcoin over the weekend has wiped out positions worth $2bn and left market experts pondering whether a wider reset for value has set in.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency lost over a fifth of its value at one stage, taking the market capitalisation back below $1trn, after a broader flight from riskier assets kicked in on Friday.

Then, stock markets on Wall Street were among those hit in the wake of a weaker-than-expected report on the US labour market.

Experts also cited traditionally low trading volumes for crypto assets over weekends – a scenario that can exacerbate downward or positive value movements.

They said the weekend rout in Bitcoin‘s price and the amount invested in Bitcoin futures returned to levels last seen in October, just before a massive price surge that sent the token to an all-time high of $69,000.

The digital currency – which is no stranger to wild fluctuations in value – also started Monday on the back foot and was trading around the $47,000 mark on most exchanges.

Matt Dibb, from Singapore-based crypto fund distributor Stackfunds, said: “Our expectation is the rest of Q4 will be a hard month; we aren’t seeing the strength in bitcoin that we generally see after one of these crushing days.

“Leverage markets have been completely reset, and open interest within leverage markets has completely reset.”

Coinglass, the cryptocurrency futures trading and information platform, said that as prices fell on Saturday, investors who had bought bitcoin on margin saw exchanges close their positions, causing a cascade of selling.

A range of retail-focused exchanges closed more than $2bn of long bitcoin positions.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the plunge: “The cryptocurrency is highly sensitive to the fortunes of the stock market and traders were spooked by a stock sell off in the US, following some disappointing jobs figures.

“The sharp fall erased the last two months of gains, yet more evidence of the highly volatile nature of the asset.

“Crypto coins and tokens have been propelled higher in this era of ultra-cheap money and as speculation swirls about just when central banks will start further tightening mass bond buying programmes and start raising interest rates, they are likely to continue to be highly volatile.”

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Berlin techno music scene should be protected by Unesco world heritage status, say campaigners | World News

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DJs and music fans are hoping to secure Unesco world heritage status for Berlin’s techno culture amid ongoing fears it could struggle to survive.

Music fans from across the world still travel to the German capital to visit renowned clubs such as Tresor and Berghain – and a growing campaign is calling on the authorities to apply to Unesco to protect the countercultural genre.

Techno’s popularity grew in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall with abandoned sites such as power plants and factories providing the setting for clubbers to musically express their freedom.

Although still seen as the world capital for the music genre, there are fears the COVID pandemic and the rising value of the city’s real estate will threaten its existence.

Some estimates say around 100 clubs have closed in the last decade in a city which first adopted the techno sound after its emergence in Detroit in the 1980s.

Berlin’s creative scenes are the ‘city’s currency’

Detroit DJ, Alan Oldham, who is now based in Berlin, said recognition from Unesco would help to protect key venues.

He told the Observer: “Unesco protection would go a long way towards maintaining that old spirit.

“Legacy venues like Tresor and Berghain for example would be protected as cultural landmarks.

“So many venues have closed in just the seven years I’ve lived here full-time.

“In other cities, it would be the natural club cycle at work, but Berlin is a different kind of place, where the club and creative scenes are the currency of the city.”

Support has been growing for the campaign spearheaded by Berlin-based organisation Rave The Planet, which says the techno scene should be “protected by Unesco as an intangible cultural heritage”.

If Unesco status is granted, clubs would get extra protection under planning laws and there would also be access to subsidies and other funding.

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Omicron: Curve of COVID cases driven by new variant ‘much steeper’ than previous waves, professor warns | World News

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A curve of new COVID cases – driven by the Omicron variant – is “much steeper” than previous waves, the director of the Africa Health Research Institute has warned, as South Africa prepares its hospitals for more admissions.

Speaking to Sky News, Professor Willem Hanekom said: “The wave that we are in at the moment is much steeper than the curve was for previous waves.”

He said “reinfections seem to be more common during this wave so far,” which he said “suggests that the virus may resist some aspects of the immunity that we have to protect ourselves”.

Professor Willem Hanekom tells Sky News 'reinfections seem to be more common during this wave so far'
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Professor Willem Hanekom tells Sky News ‘reinfections seem to be more common during this wave so far’

Professor Hanekom explained that the profile of Omicron patients “seems to be slightly different,” in that younger people are becoming sick, especially those who have not been vaccinated.

But he said those who have been vaccinated “have been having a milder disease than one would anticipate”.

“So that is probably good news and a reason to go and get vaccinated, because it appears that the vaccine will still protect against severe disease and death,” he added.

South Africa is preparing its hospitals for more admissions as the Omicron variant pushes the country into its fourth wave of COVID-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

Daily infections surged last week to more than 16,000 on Friday, up from around 2,300 on Monday.

Mr Ramaphosa said Omicron appeared to account for the majority of new cases in most of the country’s nine provinces.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that Nigeria will be added to the UK’s travel red list from Monday at 4am

“South Africa now has sufficient supplies of vaccines… vaccination is essential for our economic recovery because as more people are vaccinated more areas of economic activity will be opened up,” he said in a weekly newsletter.

Professor Hanekom echoed Mr Ramaphosa’s remarks, saying “virtually all the virus that we have in South Africa is now Omicron.”

He added: “But it appears as if the disease in those that have been vaccinated is relatively mild.

“So the message I think that needs to be out there is that if you can get vaccinated, you should get vaccinated.

“This is the best way to protect yourself against severe disease. So if you have access, for example, to the booster dose, go and get that booster dose.”

Mr Ramaphosa also said South Africa’s government will soon convene the National Coronavirus Command Council to review the state of the pandemic and consider whether further measures are needed to keep people safe.

“We are keeping a close eye on the rates of infection and hospitalisation,” he said.

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