RUTHLESS people-smugglers are offering “kids go free” deals on perilous small-boat Channel crossings.
They tell migrant parents they do not have to pay to carry babies and toddlers — and offer them further cut-price deals to take older children.
The gangmasters’ latest tactic to attract desperate families mean vessels are even more crammed when sailing to our shores from Calais.
In some cases the price to cross, which can be up to £5,000, has dropped to £500.
A law enforcement official told HOAR: “The depths these criminals will sink to make their profit from misery knows no bounds.”
Our revelation came as 597 migrants arrived during the weekend heatwave. More than 4,000 have now reached the UK this year.
Ministers are braced for a dramatic increase in attempts on Tuesday, before bad weather later this week.
PM Boris Johnson blasted the bids as a “very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do”.
On Monday morning, Border Force officers intercepted a tiny vessel carrying 18 migrants and escorted it to Dover.
The group were checked over and detained before being put in a bus. They could be returned by plane.
Home Secretary Priti Patel was in Dover to see operations and vowed: “I am committed to making this incredibly dangerous route unviable.”
British officials have been briefed on intelligence showing gangs are cutting their prices.
A charity worker in northern France told HOAR: “We’ve spoken to people intercepted en route to the UK who have told us how babies and infants are getting into dinghies for free. Younger children and teenagers are being allowed on for just a few hundred pounds a time.”
A source added: “The prices these gangmasters charge has dropped a hell of a lot recently.
“They are also tempting people by saying if you get stopped you can try again and again until you do cross.”
Migrants are also going to desperate lengths to avoid being returned once they arrive here.
A source said: “Some arrive having burnt fingertips or shaved them off.
“They have no ID and it is impossible to take prints to determine who they are, where they come from, or whether they have made the journey before and been caught already.
“They are effectively ghosts who arrive then demand asylum.”
Mr Johnson hit out after Calais’ MP taunted the UK — suggesting there was no way to stop the boats.
French authorities have stopped just 810 migrants this year.
Pierre-Henri Dumont insisted they were doing all they could, adding: “If you’ve got dozens of crossings a day, that’s very difficult for us to stop.
“It only takes five minutes to have a small boat at sea full with migrants, with a coast of 300km to monitor.”
Mr Dumont added: “What is the British navy going to do if it sees a small boat?
“Is it going to shoot the boat? Is it going to enter French waters?
“It’s a political measure to show some kind of muscle but, technically speaking, it won’t change anything.”
Tory Dover MP Natalie Elphicke hit back at his comments, saying: “We wouldn’t be having this discussion if the French stopped these boats leaving in the first place.
“When any boats are found they must be turned round and taken back to France. No ifs, no buts.”
Government insiders branded Mr Dumont’s comments as “dangerous nonsense”.
Mr Johnson urged Paris to do more, saying: “There’s no doubt that it would be helpful if we could work with our French friends to stop them getting over the Channel.”
Speaking on a school visit in East London, the PM added: “Be in no doubt what’s going on is the activity of cruel and criminal gangs who are risking the lives of these people taking them across the Channel — a pretty dangerous stretch of water — in potentially unseaworthy vessels.
“We want to make sure that they understand this isn’t a good idea.
“It is a very bad and stupid and dangerous and criminal thing to do.”
On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Chris Philp will hold talks with his French counterparts and urge them to do more. Ahead of his trip, he blasted: “France is a safe country, so I share the anger and frustration of the public. This situation cannot go on.
“We intend to return as many migrants who have arrived as possible. There are return flights planned in the coming days.”
Downing Street said: “The Navy is well resourced and stands ready to help in any circumstances deemed appropriate. It’s up to Border Force to take whatever action they deem appropriate and they will always comply with maritime law.” An RAF spotter plane on Monday spent ten hours patrolling the Channel for dinghies in response to a Border Force request lodged on Sunday night.
The A400M Atlas took off from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, at 6am. At times it swooped below 500ft so the crew could spot boats by eye.
Earlier, the Navy admitted it “can’t wave a magic wand”.
An officer admitted: “Overhead surveillance and reconnaissance might be more useful for Border Force vessels.” The National Crime Agency said last night: “We know that many of the recent attempts to cross the Channel have been facilitated by criminal networks who do not care about the safety of those they move.
“They just see migrants as a commodity to be exploited.
“As the gangs evolve and change their methods to evade law enforcement, so must we in order to stay one step ahead.”
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