The Home Office is launching an ad campaign in Albania aimed at deterring people from crossing the English Channel illegally.
Posters bear the message that people “face being detained and removed” if they make the journey.
The department would not say how much the publicity drive is expected to cost but announced it will also “make clear the perils” migrants may encounter on small boats when it starts in Albania next week.
Critics have branded the campaign “pointless” after the number of Channel crossings remained high despite similar measures implemented last year.
Adverts in Albanian on Facebook and Instagram were launched last August to try to put people off making the journey.
Record numbers of migrants crossed the Channel in 2022 and more than 6,000 have been detected making the journey so far in this year.
According to the Home Office, Albania is a “safe and prosperous country” and many nationals “are travelling through multiple countries to make the journey to the UK” before making “spurious asylum claims when they arrive”.
Albanian was the most common nationality applying for asylum in the UK in the year to March 2023, with 13,714 applications by Albanian citizens, 9,487 of which came from arrivals on boats crossing the Channel.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said: “We are determined to stop the boats and the campaign, launching in Albania this week, is just one component of the Home Office’s work upstream to help dispel myths about illegal travel to the UK, explain the realities and combat the lies peddled by evil people smugglers who profit from this vile trade.”
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “This is yet another pointless campaign that shows ministers refuse to understand that a small minority of the world’s refugees have very powerful reasons to come here.
“It also repeats the myth that refugee migration is illegal when in fact a person’s right to enter a country to claim asylum is protected by a Refugee Convention we helped create.
“If the government wanted to smash the smuggling gangs and stop people crossing the Channel in flimsy boats, it would create more safe routes for refugees to travel here to claim asylum.”
Steve Smith, chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais, said: “No amount of taxpayer-funded PR spin will deter refugees, who have experienced some of the worst things imaginable from war and conflict to torture and human rights abuses, from seeking a safe future.
“The only solution that will put people smugglers out of business, stop small boat crossings and save lives is to offer safe passage to refugees with a viable asylum claim in the UK.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Tories’ “so-called solutions” to tackle the migrant crisis have failed “at every turn”.
“It beggars belief that as Channel crossings continue to rise and the asylum system is in chaos, all the Conservatives can come up with to stop the criminal gangs is an ad campaign,” she said.
“At every turn, the Tories’ so-called solutions fail to meet the scale of the crisis. All they are doing is tinkering at the edges.”