CRIMINAL gangs are using smaller ports such as those in Sussex to smuggle people into the country.

Following a step up in security at the likes of Dover and Portsmouth, the gangs are said to be targeting ports such as Newhaven, The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

The NCA - the UK's equivalent to the FBI - said migrants pay criminals as much as £13,500 to get into the country.

The agency is running the largest dedicated operation against organised immigration crime in Europe.

Tom Dowdall, deputy director of the NCA's border policing command, said: "We've seen on the east coast evidence from Tilbury and Purfleet, up as far as Hull and Immingham. And on the south coast at Newhaven."

Commenting on the sums of money charged for crossings, he said it varied hugely depending on the service being sought.

He said factors that affect the price include whether the migrant wants a staged or "end to end" trip, how much they can afford and the level of risk perceived by smugglers.

Mr Dowdall said someone wishing to travel from Iraq to the UK could pay just under £4,000 to go over land through Turkey and Europe, while the price jumps to more than £13,500 for a journey by air.

Referring to the more expensive example, Mr Dowdall said: "That's someone who has been able to access a good quality travel document in the first instance to be able to cross borders and to be able to fool airlines as well."

Asked how frequent such activity is, he said: "There is a regularity to that."

The cost and sophistication of efforts to smuggle migrants into Britain from France also varies considerably, he said.

Prices can range from as little as just over £100 for a single, basic attempt to more than £6,000 for a journey in a "high-quality concealment".

Intelligence suggests that some migrants have paid up to £12,000 for transport from Dunkirk to the UK in Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats.

He said one migrant had been found in a tanker at who had travelled from Iran to Calais via Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Austria, Switzerland and, once in France, Paris and Lille.

He had paid around £2,800 to various smugglers agents, with the journey to the UK costing an additional £800.