Human smuggling has exploded on the internet, with criminal organisations employing influencers to advertise crossings on the Mediterranean.
On the most visited social media groups, Tunisian and Libyan human smugglers offer safe and comfortable sea crossings. They also include videos of men having fun on the boats during the journey. False illusions are used to lure the desperate masses of Africa to Europe.
The threat of tragedies at sea and the reality of closed camps are not even mentioned. Well-established marketing techniques are used to reach as many people as possible with as many shares as possible. The propaganda of criminal organizations flows undisturbed in virtual space.
There are an alarming number of Facebook profiles promoting illegal boat trips to Italy. "We offer you the best trip, the best treatment and the best price," the posts read. They also assure those wishing to go that "this is no gimmick, only serious enquiries" will be honored.
The advertisements fail to mention the restrictions introduced in Italy and the fact that other European countries do not want illegal immigrants.
The on-the-ground reality on the island of Lampedusa, which has become daily news in the European press, does not appear on media outlets in African countries.
Illegal immigrants arriving in Italy make videos of the sea crossing, the euphoric atmosphere of landing, the reception centers and then share them on social media to encourage others to go.
They give the impression that there is no risk in tranziting the sea, that a prosperous future awaits them, and that everyone in Europe welcomes them with open arms.
The Italian press also reports the shocking news that
a growing number of pregnant women and young girls, who were raped in African camps, are arriving on Lampedusa.
An attending physician at the local hospital is pushing for the establishment of an infirmary for women who have suffered severe trauma. Pregnant women from Africa are boarding the boats because they believe that Italy has a policy of ius soli in place, i.e. the child is immediately granted Italian citizenship if born there. This belief is also most likely the result of disinformation by smugglers.
Cover photo: Illegal immigrants arrive on board an Italian Finance Police boat on the island of Lampedusa near southern Italy on September 19, 2023 (Photo: MTI/EPA/Ansa/Ciro Fusco)