Social media's role in people-smuggling

  • 09/12/2017
WhatsApp, developed by Facebook, uses encryption. Photo credit: Getty

The UN migration agency is calling on social media giants to control their platforms, saying they're being used by smugglers to lure West African migrants to Libya where they face detention, torture and slavery.

The smugglers often use Facebook to reach would-be migrants with false promises, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Leonard Doyle told a briefing on Friday.

When migrants are tortured video is also sometimes sent back to their families over WhatsApp, he said.

"We think it's time for some grown-up responsibility by the social media companies writ-large for their platforms which are clearly having a very detrimental role on young vulnerable populations across West Africa," Doyle said.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014 and many have died en route. The influx has presented a political problem for European countries. Numbers of migrants entering Europe are down this year.

The IOM also said it was repatriating 4000 migrants to Niger and 167 to Guinea from Libya under its voluntary repatriation programme which hopes to return home 15,000 by year-end.

WhatsApp, developed by Facebook, uses encryption to stop third parties snooping in on conversations.