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Home Office spent millions on ‘ineffective’ adverts to deter asylum seekers with more now planned on Rwanda campaign

The authorities has given a minimum of £2.7m to a company behind “inhumane and ineffective” communications programmes making an attempt to scale back small boat crossings, it may be revealed.

It is now planning to pay £100,000 for a separate drive to promote the Rwanda deal in several languages on social media, within the hope that migrants can be delay travelling to Britain.

An investigation by The Independent reveals that the Home Office has funded quite a few “migration behavioural change” campaigns in recent times with the purpose of deterring irregular journeys.

But the variety of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel in small boats rocketed to a file of over 28,000 final year.

Data revealed beneath a Freedom of Information (FOI) request confirmed the Home Office has paid Hong Kong-based agency Seefar £2.7m since 2016.

The company describes itself as a “leader in the migration field”, which conducts “migration awareness-raising and behavioural change campaigns”.

It is behind web sites together with “On The Move” and “The Migrant Project”, which declare to “enable migrant migrants to make informed decisions” and provide recommendation and helplines in a number of languages.

A breakdown obtained by The Independent confirmed the Home Office has given Seefar six-figure sums for initiatives together with “France migrant comms” and “overseas communications”.

The most up-to-date chunk of funding was for a £40,600 “migrant deterrence communications campaign” in 2020-21.

It noticed Seefar arrange a web site referred to as On The Move, which had a .org area and appeared to be a charity “providing migrants in transit with reliable migration information”.

The web site centered on “the risks of irregular migration” and inspired readers to use “safe and legal alternatives” – with out detailing how to declare asylum or apply for resettlement within the UK.

“You have a choice,” learn the On The Move web site. “Don’t risk your life and waste hard earned money trying to reach the UK.”

Examples of Home Office social media posts linking to the ‘On The Move’ web site

(FOI by PA information company/Home Office)

The Home Office paid an extra £23,200 for focused adverts to be positioned on Facebook and Instagram in English, Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto, linking to the web site and carrying slogans together with “don’t put you or your child’s life in danger”, “we will return you” and “there is no hiding place”.

No evaluation of the campaign’s effectiveness has been made public and On The Move was deleted following the tip of the Home Office contract in December.

The 2019-20 monetary year – when Channel crossings rose steeply and Priti Patel turned house secretary – noticed the best spending.

More than £1.3m was given to Seefar for companies listed as “overseas comms project Afghanistan”, “upstream migrant comms”, “Northern France comms work” and “France migrant comms”.

Between 2018 and 2020, three massive funds of between £185,000 and £272,000 every had been listed for The Migrant Project web site, with out additional particulars.

Separate funds from 2016-17 totalling nearly £415,000 had been listed as “blank” within the FOI launch.

The authorities is due to give Seefar an undisclosed quantity of money beneath an ongoing three-year contract to present a “training provision framework”, for a division that “delivers strategic capability development programmes overseas on behalf of the Home Office”.

Seefar didn’t reply to questions from The Independent, together with on the aim of its communications initiatives and the way they had been delivered.

The ‘contact us’ part of the On The Move web site, which has since been deleted

(screengrab)

It didn’t say whether or not it had any proof on the effectiveness of programmes funded by the British authorities, or if it could be pitching for the brand new campaign promoting the Rwanda deal.

The Home Office refused a second FOI by The Independent in search of additional particulars of the programmes it funded, saying it could value an excessive amount of money to discover the knowledge.

Tim Naor Hilton, the chief govt of Refugee Action, stated: “Cruelty costs money. The Government’s inhumane and ineffective get-tough-quick schemes come with a massive price-tag for the taxpayer.

“Nobody wants to see people have to risk their lives in small boats simply to ask the UK for sanctuary. The government must create a compassionate and just protection system that provides routes for refugees to reach the UK and treats people with dignity once they arrive.

“Time and money would be better spent investing in resettlement, speeding up and improving decision-making or granting the right to work, not on murky websites or racist and cruel plans to deport people 5,000 miles away.”

Questions over whether or not the federal government’s deal with Rwanda, plans to criminalise small boat crossings and a punitive bundle of legal guidelines will act as a deterrent have been raised in parliament by MPs and friends.

Matthew Rycroft, the Home Office everlasting secretary, refused to log out the Rwanda deal on the premise “sufficient evidence cannot be obtained to demonstrate that the policy will have a deterrent effect significant enough to make the policy value for money”.

Theresa May clashes with Priti Patel over Rwanda asylum seeker coverage

James Wilson, the deputy director of Detenction Action, stated: “For years, it seems that all reasonable, humane proposals to help people seeking asylum have gone straight to Priti Patel’s spam folder.

”Instead, she has doggedly pursued the Australian mannequin of offshore processing and detention, which has made billions for a handful of world firms however failed to deter refugees from making an attempt to rebuild their lives in security.”

The Home Office stated that not all of its spending on Seefar had been on deterrence communications relating to Channel crossings.

It stated some communications had centered on fashionable slavery in Nigeria, though the purpose was to educate ladies “on the risks and signs of slavery before they consider travel to the UK”.

A Home Office spokesperson stated: “Criminals are exploiting vulnerable people for profit, selling false dreams of life in the UK and putting lives in danger with every crossing they sell.

“Men, women and children have died making this deadly journey and we make absolutely no apology for communicating potentially lifesaving information to migrants.

“Anyone considering attempting to get to the UK by illegal means needs to know that the UK’s rules have changed, they may now be considered for relocation to Rwanda and that there are safe and legal options available to them – this is the focus of our communications plans.”

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