PEOPLE smugglers who offer to illegally transport people into Europe are advertising their services openly on Facebook, researchers have found.
Picture and video testimonials from successful migrants are posted on social media as smuggling operations compete to be seen as the safest way to enter Europe.
Researchers are using this information to analyse the networks behind people smuggling operations in the Mediterranean.
Syrian communities displaced by the civil war are especially close users of Facebook. The country had a functional education system before the war and Syrian migrants have on average a higher level of education and digital literacy.
A team led by Paolo Campana, an expert in criminal networks at the University of Cambridge, has pored over a vast range of information to investigate how migrants choose their smugglers and border crossings.
“As everywhere, education matters,” Dr Campana said.
“Accessing and evaluating information through channels such as Facebook could mean the difference between life and death.”
Facebook has shifted its focus toward video in recent years
Facebook groups are used by people smugglers to compete for ‘customers’
More than 885,000 illegal border crossings took place along the East Mediterranean route in 2015 – a 1,641% increase on 2014.
Dr Campana did not know how many of these transactions would have been negotiated on the internet, but told Sky News social media must have played a major role.
The smugglers’ focus on reputation is a product of smuggling humans into Europe being a “quintessential free market”, according to Dr Campana. –skynews.com