UK government to pay TikTok stars to tell Albanians to stay away

UK government to pay TikTok stars to tell Albanians to stay away
Albania has a high level of emigration as Albanians seek better opportunities in the UK and other West European countries. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 15, 2024

The UK government is revealed to be planning to pay TikTok influencers to dissuade migrants from crossing the Channel, with a particular focus on Albania and other countries known for contributing to illegal migration to the UK.

The initiative, revealed by The Times, aims to target migrants in conflict-free countries, particularly young working-age men and their families, encouraging them to consider the risks associated with illegal migration to the UK. 

There are plans to offer substantial sums of money to social media influencers in regions with high levels of illegal migration, aiming to dissuade potential migrants from undertaking perilous journeys via small boats. The influencers will also be tasked with highlighting the risks of deportation to Rwanda, according to the report.

The scheme would circumvent a ban on direct government advertising on TikTok, which was implemented last year due to security fears.

According to The Times, the campaign is budgeted at £1mn (€1.2mn) in total. It will include mass campaigns in countries such as Albania, Iraq, Egypt and Vietnam, with potential expansion to Turkey and India.

A significant portion of the budget, approximately £380,500, would be allocated to an extensive advertising campaign in Albania.

Additional funds of £15,000 are earmarked for influencers in Egypt and Vietnam. Allocations for Turkish, Iraqi, and Indian influencers are yet to be determined, although there is a total budget of £576,500 for these regions.

Multicultural Marketing Consultancy (MMC) has reportedly been contracted by the Home Office to identify suitable candidates.

According to the report, in Albania influencers like rapper Omg Dioh and comedian Roxhi Dibrani have been identified as key figures. Dioh, with 100,000 followers, and Dibrani, with an audience of 150,000, would be paid to leverage their influence to dissuade potential migrants. 

However, some influencers have already said they have no intention of participating. 

Fabio Daja, an Albanian TikToker with a significant following, denied any involvement in the campaign when contacted by i. "I find it a very sensitive issue when it comes to refugees trying to cross the border," he said.

Similarly, travel blogger Ben Washburn, another figure mentioned in the report, told i he had not been approached by the British government and was not interested in participating.

Albania and the UK have been working together to reduce the number of Albanian citizens illegally entering the UK. 

A joint communiqué on the issue was signed by the prime ministers of the two countries in December 2022. Five months later, more than 1,000 Albanian nationals had been repatriated. 

In May 2023, the two countries reached an agreement resulting in the transfer of hundreds of Albanian prisoners back to their home country. In exchange, the UK is providing support to modernise the Albanian prison system. 

Despite the agreements, migration has been a contentious issue between London and Tirana. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has strongly criticised the British government for scapegoating Albanians for what he said were political purposes.