Through the darkness of the early hours we spot what looks like a small boat, not heading out from Calais, but towards the beach where we are hidden in the sand dunes.
It moves slowly, there is no sound from an engine, and it takes time to reach the shore.
With his night vision lens, our cameraman is able to count the people as they exit the inflatable, which has landed on the sand west of Calais.
There are at least 10, possibly 11. He cannot be certain if some are men or women. Who are they and what are they doing?
Image: A group of migrants tried and failed to cross the Channel
We manage to move a little closer, undetected, and see some of the group disappear off along the beach below us.
Others carry the boat’s motor and huddle behind a group of huts on what is a busy stretch of beach for tourists and locals by day.
They stay until dawn pushes its light into the sky before heading away from the beach, which is when we follow, catching up with a group of four men.
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I call out and they stop to talk despite looking exhausted, and it is then we learn they tried and failed to cross the Channel.
One – a Sudanese man – tells us they were far out at sea when the motor developed problems and they ran out of fuel. Adrift and terrified, they say they called for help but none came.
Image: Migrants are told to head to a certain spot at night
The wind and current brought them to Bleriot beach, where you can see the ships and ferries passing in the darkness.
With no power on the boat, they were lucky not to have been struck by a large vessel during their more than two hours at sea.
They had each paid smugglers 1,200 euros (£1,082) for a place on a boat (cheap by local standards).
They thought they would make it to England, but local fishermen tell us they regularly see boats packed with people running out of fuel in the Channel.
The smugglers calculate the migrants and asylum seekers don’t need to make it to the UK’s shores – just into British waters. But they expose those on board to serious danger.
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The smugglers don’t care. They are simply in the business of making money. And that means cutting fuel costs and packing as many into the boats as possible.
In woods to the east of Calais, we find a makeshift camp that dozens of Iraqi Kurds call home. In recent days, people tell us the police tried to break up the encampment, destroying tents and leaving people to sleep in the open.
We meet Karzan along with his wife, four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, who days ago thought their chance to get to England had come.
Image: Karzan and his family have tried to reach England
They gathered on a beach at night waiting for the cue from the smugglers that a boat was coming. When it arrived, Karzan said as many as 70 people crammed into a boat designed for less than half that number. He was scared for himself and his family.
He was desperate to go but decided it was too dangerous and took his family back to the forest. He says he will try again, but the smugglers are not the kind of people who offer refunds and he will likely have to pay again.
With some handing over as much as 3,000 euros (£2,703) to get in a boat, this a lucrative business for those who trade in people.
Image: A makeshift camp in Calais where dozens of Iraqi Kurds call home
Demand from migrants and asylum seekers is growing and the smugglers supply the goods. French police told us recent days have been more difficult than ever.
But over the two nights we spent on the beach, we saw police cars in the towns known for launches but no sign of police patrols or surveillance on the beaches.
What we did see was plenty of evidence that the cross-Channel trade is not slowing. In our final hours, again hidden in the darkness, our cameraman’s heat-seeking camera picked out six men waiting it out on sand dunes nearby.
Our local guide – a fishermen – tells us that after handing over the cash, migrants are told to head to a certain spot at night and simply wait for a cue from the smugglers that a boat is coming. They may have to return for several days before the opportunity to travel comes.
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For the men we watched for hours, this would not be their night. No boat arrived and they melted away into the early morning light, probably to return this evening.
The potential dangers of the journey ahead takes second place for so many to a desperation to get to England. Desperation the smugglers exploit.
Source : Sky News