Author: Becky Johnson
At a camp near the port in Calais, a group of Iranian migrants are wishing each other a happy new year.
Between the flimsy tents are the remains of campfires and litter strewn around.
They do not know how long they will be able to stay here. The police frequently move migrants on.
Ahmad, 27, approaches us with a big smile.
His English is good and I ask him why he so desperately wants to get to the UK.
“My family live in the UK and my sister,” he says, telling me her local football team is Stoke City and that he would feel safe in England from people who have made death threats to him in Iran.
He also tells me that smugglers visit the camp often, at times on a daily basis, offering boat trips to England in exchange for money.
His smile disappears as he recalls what happened a month ago.
“Somebody came to this camp and said if you want to go to UK on a boat you can pay 500 euros” he says.
“I paid the money. He came with a van.”
He describes being told to keep his head down inside the van to avoid being caught by police. When he was allowed to look up some half an hour later, they were at a beach.
He and seven other migrants were told by the smuggler to get in the boat.
He explains: “They said: ‘I go and I come back with the driver’.
“But he didn’t come back with driver. After he saw us and we don’t go, he came with a knife and said: ‘If you don’t go, I kill you.”
Terrified, they set off into the Channel, but the boat’s engine cut out and it began to take in water.
After eight hours at sea, they were rescued and returned to France where they were detained by the authorities before being released.
I ask him if the extra measures announced by the government, including two extra Border Force cutters in the Channel, will deter migrants from attempting the trip.