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Social media posts encourage irregular migration in Maghrebi countries, a study reveals

Social media content shared and viewed by Maghrebi youngsters encourage irregular migration, a study reveals. Researchers from the Institute for Security Studies believe that posts romanticizing Europe as a destination for migrants must be censored.

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Social media posts encourage irregular migration in Maghrebi countries, a study reveals./Ph. DR

More Maghrebi youngsters are trying to reach Europe through irregular migration, influenced by content shared on social media, reveals a new study. Conducted by Matthew Herbert, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), and geopolitics researcher Amine Ghoulidi, the study sheds light on the weight social media has on migration in the region.

Published on March the 25th, the research titled «Social media bridges North Africa’s divides to facilitate migration» reveals that internet has been playing a major role in encouraging young people from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya to turn into irregular migration.

This is witnessed through the rising number of social media posts that give a romanticized idea about living in Europe. Irregular migration is «propelled by a social media ecosystem that drives dreams of migration», the two researchers said.

The European el dorado on social media

This is widely shared in the region because of the common language spoken in Maghrebi countries. The study states that youngsters in the Maghreb spend their time consuming content on Facebook and Youtube that «drives migration» and sometimes «enables it».

Video blogs and posts shared by «Maghrebi emigrés» are the ones to be blamed for spreading appealing content about irregular migration. In their social media posts, they portray «Europe as clean, safe and filled with economic and social opportunities».

Maghrebi migrants also describe their «engagements with government officials are flagged as fair and functional». These videos give a distorted reality of their lives in Europe and push young people to consider leaving their countries to live in similar conditions.

Encouraging youngsters to migrate does not rely only on such videos and posts but it also consists of providing actual advice to those who are interested in leaving their countries for Europe. Through social media posts, videos and Facetime, WhatsApp and Instagram Maghrebi migrants give detailed information to followers about crossing.

According to Herbert and Ghoulidi, these «posts also cover strategies on how to regularize one’s legal status – or, at the very least, avoid deportation – once in Europe».

«Claim to be underage, claim to be Libyan, claim to be looking for your father,’ recommended one Moroccan video», revealed the same source.

The comment section in these posts is also an arena, where numbers of smugglers are shared and logistical details are posted for those who are planning to cross the Mediterranean for Europe.

However, the same study regrets the fact that little is done by Maghrebi governments to censor these posts. They «have not yet shut down or censored social media conversations on migration», the authors of the research concluded.

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