A video that went viral in late September 2023 authentically showed 500,000 “military aged men” gathering on the north coast of Africa in preparation to migrate to Europe and America.
One post on X (formerly Twitter) with the in-question footage read “ALERT: Roughly 500,000 military-aged men are purportedly gathering in North Africa in preparation to enter Europe.. MEDIA SILENT..”
ALERT: Roughly 500,000 military-aged men are purportedly gathering in North Africa in preparation to enter Europe..
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) September 25, 2023
However, when we searched for the video via reverse image search, we noticed it hadn’t been released in September 2023. Among other places, we found it was published on June 23, 2023, on a questionable “redd.tube” website, with the caption:
SITUATION IS GETTING WORSE.. REPORTS OF UP TO 500,000 MALE IMMIGRANTS HAVE ARRIVED IN LIBYA IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, AS THEY PREPARE TO ENTER THE EUROPE THROUGH ITALIAN WATERS. MOST OF THEM ARE FROM PAKISTAN
The longest and earliest version of the footage we found was published on TikTok on June 1, 2023, and its caption in Arabic (we used Google Translate) read, “Deporting young Egyptians from Libya, may God make it easy for them.”
Another video published on the same day, was also captioned in Arabic: “An Egyptian woman was arrested in a Libyan warehouse in Musaed #Immigration_to_Europe 🇪🇺 #Immigration.”
We checked whether reliable news sources had reported that Libya was deporting “young Egyptians” in early June 2023. Reuters published an article on June 4, 2023, on the topic. It read in part:
Eastern Libyan forces have expelled thousands of Egyptians who were in Libya illegally in recent days, deporting them to Egypt on foot across the land border, an Egyptian security source and an eastern Libyan security source said.
The Libyan security source said 4,000 migrants had been found during raids on people traffickers following a shootout between security forces and smugglers and they were all deported.
BBC Arabic published a similar article on June 5, 2023, that read (we used Google Translate to translate it from Arabic):
The deportation of Egyptians from Libya on foot raises anger in Egypt
Thousands of Egyptian migrants made the journey back from Libya to their country on foot after the Libyan authorities decided to deport them to their country for residing illegally.
The Libyan authorities found thousands of illegal immigrants detained in the homes and farms of smugglers during a recent campaign, and took a decision to deport them in an attempt to provide security and limit the flow of illegal immigrants.
The Associated Press also covered the topic in early June 2023, underscoring that Libya is the “dominant transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to make it to Europe”:
Human traffickers have benefited from the chaos in Libya and smuggled migrants through the country’s lengthy border with six nations. They then pack desperate migrants seeking a better life in Europe into ill-equipped rubber boats and other vessels in risky voyages on the perilous Central Mediterranean Sea route.
What’s more, an X account of a media network based in Egypt, @RassdNewsN, posted a similar video with the caption: “The Libyan authorities return thousands of illegal immigrants to Egypt through the Amsaed land port.” The post was shared on June 2, 2023, and showed security forces wearing the same uniforms as those visible in the in-question video:
السلطات الليبية تعيد آلاف المهاجرين غير الشرعيين إلى مصر عبر منفذ امساعد البري pic.twitter.com/7NY9oQiE7N
— شبكة رصد (@RassdNewsN) June 2, 2023
In short, we found no evidence that “500,000 military aged men gathering in north coast of Africa” were making preparations to invade Europe and America. Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency, has reported that the stretch of the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Italy is one of the main migratory routes to Europe, and in 2022 “the number of detections in the Central Mediterranean rose by more than half to well over 100,000 detections,” obviously a smaller number than the 500,000 mentioned in the viral posts.
Moreover, in late June 2023, The Observers, a fact-checking effort of France 24, as well as Myth Detector and AFP Sprawdzam debunked similar videos allegedly depicting 500,000 migrants “getting ready to invade Italy,” which might have been a source for the rumors of young men invading Europe and America.
All in all, given that various sources indicated that the video in question showed Egyptian immigrants being deported from Libya, rather than African men preparing to invade Europe and America, we have rated this claim as “Miscaptioned.”
Central Mediterranean Route. https://frontex.europa.eu/what-we-do/monitoring-and-risk-analysis/migratory-routes/central-mediterranean-route/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.
“Eastern Libya Forces Stage Mass Deportation of Egyptian Migrants.” Reuters, 4 June 2023. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/eastern-libya-forces-stage-mass-deportation-egyptian-migrants-2023-06-04/.
“Eastern Libyan Authorities Round up Thousands in Crackdown on Migrants.” AP News, 3 June 2023, https://apnews.com/article/libya-migrants-crackdown-egypt-2fd0aced8b8d05e7aa6c7d05637c2f57.
“Nagranie nie pokazuje eskortowanych przez żołnierzy migrantow w drodze z Libii do Włoch.” Sprawdzam, 28 July 2023, https://sprawdzam.afp.com/doc.afp.com.33PZ34Y.
“No, These Videos Do Not Show 500,000 Migrants ‘Getting Ready to Invade Italy.'” The Observers – France 24, 29 June 2023, https://observers.france24.com/en/africa/20230629-intox-arm%C3%A9e-500000-migrants-libye-%C3%A9gypte-arrestation-police.
“Who Are We?” The Observers – France 24, 9 Sept. 2020, https://observers.france24.com/en/who-are-we.
“ترحيل مصريين من ليبيا سيرا على الأقدام يثير غضبا في مصر.” BBC News عربي, 5 June 2023, https://www.bbc.com/arabic/tv-and-radio-65814715.