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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

UK targets Vietnamese to deter Channel crossings

Migrants rescued from the English Channel walk after arriving on a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) boat at Dungeness, Britain. — Reuters file photo
Migrants rescued from the English Channel walk after arriving on a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) boat at Dungeness, Britain. — Reuters file photo
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LONDON: The UK on Monday launched a new global social media campaign, aimed at Vietnam in particular, to deter migrants from trying to cross the Channel from northern France on small boats.


It comes as statistics showed the number of arrivals using the hazardous and highly contentious route up by 15 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2023.


An increasing proportion of "small boat" arrivals hail from Vietnam, with the southeast Asian nation among the top 10 nationalities for migrants crossing the Channel, according to the UK interior ministry.


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made "stopping the boats" one of his top priorities, and claimed to be succeeding when they fell by around a third last year.


A reversal on that could prove politically perilous for the Conservative leader ahead of a general election expected later this year.


The new online adverts, which feature real testimonies from those who have previously made the dangerous journeys, are being posted on Facebook and YouTube to target Vietnamese migrants.


"The social media posts emphasise the consequences of travelling to the UK illegally, dangers people can expect to face, and set out the risks of being indebted to and exploited by the people smuggling gangs," the interior ministry said.


They also warn prospective migrants of "the reality" of living in Britain "with no right to be in the UK and no access to public services or funding".


It follows a similar campaign last year targeting migrants from Albania, which contributed to a 90-percent reduction in arrivals from the Balkan country, the ministry said.


Sunak's government is also persevering with controversial proposals to deter cross-Channel small boat journeys by trying to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda.


The UK Supreme Court had blocked the plan over safety fears, but Sunak has introduced proposals to declare Rwanda "safe" and agreed a new treaty with the east African country to kickstart deportations. Flights could take off within months if lawmakers approve the draft law.


Official figures show 4,244 people have made the Channel crossing so far this year in 2024. That compares to 3,683 in the same 12-week period last year. — AFP


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