Posted on February 14, 2024

TikTok Stars to Be Paid to Warn Migrants Not to Cross Channel

Matt Dathan, The Times, February 13, 2024

The Home Office will pay celebrities to post messages on TikTok, urging migrants not to cross the Channel in small boats.

Social media influencers in countries that account for a large amount of illegal migration to the UK will be offered thousands of pounds to publicise new immigration laws, including the threat of deportation to Rwanda.

The decision to pay influencers to “engage prospective migrants” is described as “novel” in a government document. The idea emerged in Downing Street from Cass Horowitz, the social media expert behind “Brand Rishi”. Suella Braverman is understood to have blocked the plans when she was home secretary over concerns they were “frivolous” but they are now going ahead after her departure from government.

The process is designed to evade the ban on government use of TikTok, which was introduced last year after security concerns about the Chinese-founded firm. It means the Home Office cannot advertise directly on TikTok.

The video-sharing platform is used by people smugglers to advertise cross-Channel migration and the Home Office believes it is “vital” to target migrants. The move is part of a £1 million advertising blitz to be introduced alongside the implementation of the Home Office’s Rwanda policy in the spring.

The mass advertising campaigns will take place in Albania, Iraq, Egypt and Vietnam, with plans to introduce them in Turkey and India.

A shortlist of influencers has been drawn up in Albania with the help of a private market consultancy, which includes a rapper, two comedians, lifestyle bloggers, TV personalities and a travel writer. The Home Office has a budget of about £30,000 to pay the Albanian influencers, who have been chosen for their ability to appeal to young men. It would be capped at £5,000 per person.


In 2022, 13,602 Albanians crossed the Channel in small boats, but the number dropped by 90 per cent last year as fewer than 1,500 arrived, although many are believed to have switched routes to travel in lorries.

A budget of £15,000 has been dedicated to paying influencers in Egypt and Vietnam. The budget for Turkish, Iraqi and Indian influencers has yet to be decided but a total of £576,500 has been signed off for these five countries.

The Home Office has contracted Multicultural Marketing Consultancy (MMC) to find candidates. The firm, which specialises in “engaging diverse audiences”, said that the seven celebrities it had proposed were “popular culture opinion-formers who are well-placed to disseminate key messages on TikTok about the reasons to remain in country, risks to crossings [and] the legislation that applies if you arrive in the UK”.