Smuggling gangs are negotiating "money back" guarantees to migrants on social media, as the numbers reaching the UK across the Channel passed 1,000 since Monday.
People traffickers are continuing to use platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok to promote their services despite demands by ministers and police chiefs for the social media firms to take down and bar such posts.
The adverts are available online for two or three days before being removed by the traffickers after they have filled their boats.
In one, on Facebook, a migrant going by the name of Abdelrahman AbdElshafy said he would pay for passage from Egypt but under a "warranty" that the money would not be handed over until he arrived.
Police sources confirmed such deals were negotiated, as well as partial down payments – with the full amount handed over on a successful crossing – three guaranteed attempts in return for a single cash payment, or a premium payment ensuring as many crossing bids as needed until successful.
Other gangs use London-based middlemen who charge up to £500 per person to act as guarantors to facilitate the entry of illegal migrants into Britain. The brokers, some of whom pose as legitimate businessmen, withhold funds paid by the migrants and only release the cash to the people smugglers once they are in the UK.
The system ensures that those desperately trying to enter Britain are not "ripped off" by the smugglers and provides some form of "gold standard" for trafficking gangs.
A video on Tik Tok, with 429,700 views, boasted that migrants should stick with "reputable" smugglers who could guarantee safe passage to Britain for £7,000. "Do not listen to those who put the price at £18K or 20K, do contact me on WhatsApp [the encrypted messaging service]," the speaker said.
People thought to be migrants who crossed from France are brought to land in Dover after being picked up by Border Force in the Channel on Thursday
Credit: Matt Dunham/AP
The industrial scale of the operation emerged on Thursday as evidence that bigger boats capable of carrying up to 90 people a time are being deployed from a wider range of embarkation points on the French coast in order to evade an increased police presence.
The mega-inflatables, which have big outboard motors and cost thousands of pounds, are warehoused away from beaches before being moved to the coast at night.
It comes after Priti Patel announced on Tuesday that France had received £54 million from the UK to pay for a doubling in police officers on the coast to 200, increased surveillance technology and more intelligence gathering.
The Home Secretary warned that social media firms were fuelling the people smuggling trade and urged them to do more to take down the posts.
"The criminals glamourising and spinning lies about illegal and dangerous crossings online have blood on their hands," she said. "They are fuelling an illegal trade in people smuggling using social media to advertise and sell lies about their crimes.
"Risking lives to line their pockets is truly sickening, which is why I am introducing tough new laws so that people smugglers face life in jail.
"As these new laws pass, I am urging social media companies to do much more to take down posts and ads from these smugglers, so that migrants don’t pay the ultimate price by putting their lives in the hands of despicable criminal gangs."
Andrea Wilson, the deputy director of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: "One of the ways we are seeking to disrupt people smugglers’ business models is through targeting their social media offering.
"The NCA have worked with partners to have hundreds of social media pages and posts advertising organised immigration crime services removed from platforms. But we are clear industry needs to work with us to do more, and we have ongoing positive engagement with them."
At least another 100 migrants are believed to have reached the UK across the channel on Thursday, following around 240 on Wednesday, 287 on Tuesday and a daily record of 430 on Monday.
The total of more than 8,700 this year has already passed the 8,417 that reached the UK in the whole of last year.