A new generation of 'vloggers' are posting videos on YouTube in an effort to transform illegal immigration and trips motivated by hope for a better future into adventures.
North African migrants have long shared advice about how to enter Europe or the United States illicitly. However, a new generation of 'vloggers' is posting videos on YouTube to offer an adventurous view of immigration.
The phenomenon was analyzed by the magazine The Economist in a long article published on July 23 which is dedicated to one of the most popular YouTubers focusing on immigration, Zouhir Bounou, who calls himself Zizou.
Vlogs with 'advice' on routes
One of the last trips filmed by the 25-year-old Moroccan YouTuber, which was viewed over a million times, talks about his adventurous trip to reach Panama, one of 10 countries he has entered illegally on his way to the United States, the magazine reports.
His romanticized view of life on the other side of the journey, according to experts interviewed by the magazine, has encouraged hundreds of thousands of North Africans to embark on a trip towards Europe or the United States.
And vloggers like Zizou are turning their trips into entertainment, The Economist said.
Information for aspiring migrants
This new generation of migrants are similar to the vloggers they are following. Many are university students or already have a degree and are working. They are mostly middle class.
The vlogs are full of useful information for aspiring migrants, including coordinates on the route to take to cross the Turkish-Greek border and the going rates for bribes, The Economist reported.
Some of the vlogs also mention lawyers who can help with paperwork or charities that offer shelter, the report said.
There is also advice on how to avoid deportation. "Claim to be underage. Claim to be Libyan and claim to be looking for your father," a vlogger is quoted as saying by the magazine.
Jet skis are also suggested to Moroccans heading to Spain.
Warning against traffickers
The comment section of vlogs often includes information such as the phone numbers of smugglers, The Economist reported. However, vloggers mostly warn against paying human traffickers.
Authorities in destination countries have a hard time monitoring the accounts of social media influencers who often use North African dialects that are beyond the radar of western officials, The Economist quoted an expert as saying.
Many of the YouTubers posting migration vlogs are also making a profit from advertising and product placements, just like any other influencer. Murad Mzouri, a popular Moroccan vlogger who used to peddle cheap clothes back home, told The Economist he earns up to 2,000 euros a month.
When Zizou ended up in jail, his followers crowdfunded his bail, the magazine said.