In Calais, 60 ferries carry 5000 trucks back and forth to Dover every day. But freight is not always their only cargo. For drivers and tourists, travelling the 22 miles of sea between France and England is a routine but for others it is a dream.
Migrants from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq - as well as those from Iran and numerous African nations - arrive daily, hoping to cross to the UK. Among them, we meet father and daughter Jamilah and Farid (not their real names) from Iran. They could have paid up to 1500 Euro to a smuggler to reach Calais.
Twenty miles outside of Calais, some of the immigrants have set up a makeshift camp in easy reach of a motorway car park, enabling them to jump the trucks. We meet ‘Jim’ who worked for the coalition forces in Afghanistan. The French authorities then burn down the camp, and disperse the refugees. Jim moves to Paris where the police presence is less obvious. We find him on the banks of the Seine, along with another 200 illegal immigrants; most are en-route to the UK.
Among the other Afghanis there is Wahid Sayed. He first arrived in the UK by lorry in 2000 and applied for political asylum. Wahid tried to make a life for himself in England but, frightened by the possibility of being deported back to Afghanistan, he fled the country to France.
Soon after he was filmed, Wahid left for Belgium to try to find someone who would smuggle him into Britain. We discover that he has made his way to Birmingham, having hidden in a lorry for three days in a French port.
In Somerset, we meet pizza delivery man Sardar Jalal. He arrived from Calais in the back of a lorry six years ago as an illegal immigrant from Iraqi Kurdistan. Sardar applied for British citizenship when he first arrived but he’s still waiting.
We also meet Sardar’s girlfriend Patrina, who is on a study visa from Malaysia. Patrina accompanies Sardar to the Immigration Office in Cardiff, where he is granted indefinite leave to remain, only to discover later that Patrina is told that her visa is due to expire and she must leave the country within a few months.
We meet one of Sardar’s friends in the Kurdish community in Bristol. Armin works as a courier. He also smuggled himself in a lorry from Calais five years ago but, unlike Sardar, he is a failed asylum seeker. He does have a driving licence and a work permit.
Frustrated at being told he has to report to his local immigration office every two weeks to sign a register so they can keep tabs on his whereabouts - he shows us that he’s ripped-up the letter asking him to do this - Armin disappears.
First broadcast: Monday 14 Apr 2008 on BBC ONE