People smugglers have slashed prices to cross the Channel to as little as £450 as they dangerously cram more migrants on boats, says the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Officials said the average price had fallen from 4,500 Euros (£4,080) to 3,000 Euros (£2,700) while the lowest had dropped to 500 Euros (£450) per person.
“The boats are becoming significantly overloaded with the reduction in the prices but that increases the risk,” said the NCA, as it revealed its latest operations to smash the trafficking gangs fuelling the surge in migrants crossing the Channel.
More than 6,000 migrants have made the crossing to England this year, ranging from top-end crime groups charging as much as £10,000 for a bespoke service to “desperate” people buying cheap dinghies.
The NCA cited one case of four migrants who tried unsuccessfully to cross the Channel in a paddling pool using shovels as makeshift oars.
Steve Dann, director of criminal & financial investigation for Immigration Enforcement, said the exploitation of migrants in overloaded boats by the gangs was shocking.
"When you see these migrants come in it's upsetting. We see women and children coming off those boats shivering and hypothermic," he said.
The NCA has more than 40 operations against organised immigration crime currently running, including some at the top of its priority list.
Raids in three countries on Monday and Tuesday saw 12 people arrested as authorities moved against a suspected network accused of smuggling migrants across the English Channel.
The group had allegedly been buying inflatable boats and engines from Germany and the Netherlands and transporting them to the departure points.There, they are suspected of teaching the migrants how to operate the boats while charging thousands of euros per person for a place on board.
Officers from UK, Belgian, French and Dutch agencies working together seized ten rubber boats and engines, 158 life jackets and 12 vehicles, as well as about £40,000 in cash.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: "I want these arrests to send a clear message to the gangs engaged in people smuggling - we are coming for you.
"Law enforcement and judicial partners here and abroad are working together to pursue, catch and prosecute the criminal networks involved in illegal immigration. My commitment to solving this problem is absolute."