London: The Home Office set up a website targeting asylum seekers with “misleading” claims to deter them from journeying to Britain, The Independent can reveal. It created a fake organisation called On The Move, complete with a logo and glossy branding, which claims to “provide migrants in transit with free, reliable and important information”. Links to the website were pushed out to asylum seekers in France and Belgium as part of a social media campaign that cost the government £23,000 over five months. The website, using a .org domain commonly associated with charities, contains no government branding and the “about us” section does not disclose any link to the Home Office. Research by The Independent shows the website was set up in April 2020, using a private registration tool that conceals the owners’ personal information.
It invites asylum seekers to email On The Move with questions, without knowing that they would be contacting the British government. The website, which remains online, tells readers the UK “regularly returns people who enter via irregular routes” but in reality, Britain has not been able to deport asylum seekers to EU countries since 1 January because of Brexit. It also claims that steering a dinghy across the English Channel “is a crime”, although controversial prosecutions of boat pilots have recently been limited.
Read more: Lizzie Dearden, Independent, https://is.gd/Rt0Lmd