“TikTok traffickers” who use social media to advertise small boat crossings to migrants face criminal penalties, ministers have been told.
Tory MP Natalie Elphicke believes that advertising Channel crossings on networks such as TikTok and Facebook should be recognized as a crime.
Speaking during a Commons debate on the Online Safety Bill, the MP for Dover – whose constituency is at the forefront of the UK migration crisis – suggested that criminalizing these online promotions would save lives and help stem the business model of trafficking groups.
Ms Elphicke pointed to the ‘massive increase in the number of Albanians crossing the English Channel in small boats’ – and said it had become ‘easy to find criminal gangs posting in Albanian on TikTok with videos showing cheerful migrants with a thumbs-up on dinghies crossing the English Channel and getting to Britain with ease”.
Urging the Commons to back her amendment to the bill, she said: ‘The new Term 55 will tackle TikTok traffickers and help stop people risking their lives on those trips across the Channel.
A group of more than 50 deputies recently wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to introduce emergency legislation to reduce small boat crossings.
Ms Elphicke’s amendment would create a new criminal offense of “intentionally sharing a photograph or film that facilitates or promotes modern slavery or illegal immigration”.
He has the backing of a Tory backbench group, including former cabinet ministers Sir John Hayes and Tim Loughton.
Ms Elphicke told MPs: ‘Publicity in this context is not through an advertisement in the local newspaper, it is through the posting of online video and online photos.’
Home Secretary pledges to do ‘whatever it takes’ to solve the ‘small boat problem’ in the English Channel
Tories call for modern slavery rules to be changed to send ‘bogus asylum seekers’ home
‘It’s not life here’: Albanians undeterred from seeking life in UK
She told ministers that TikTok, WhatsApp and Facebook had all been identified as platforms actively used by smugglers and said “action is needed…to save lives in the Channel”.
Ms Elphicke said her amendment would be a greater deterrent to traffickers.
She added: “It will make it harder for smugglers to sell their wares, it will help protect people who would be exploited and put at risk by these criminal gangs.
“The risks of death and injury, the risk of modern slavery, the risks of being drawn into further crimes overseas and here in the UK are very real.
“It’s another tool in the toolbox to fight illegal immigration and prevent modern slavery.”
Culture Minister Paul Scully said he would work closely with Ms Elphicke on passing the legislation ahead of its consideration in the House of Lords.
“The legislation will give our law enforcement and social media companies the powers and guidance they need to stop the promotion of organized criminal activity on social media.”