Police arrived early at the migrant camp in Grande-Synthe, a municipality near Dunkirk in northern France.
The officers all knew the plan, and the migrants quickly realized what was going to happen. The camp was being destroyed.
In truth, it was not a difficult task. The Grande-Synthe camp was little more than a collection of tents and flimsy shelters huddled together in a wilderness behind a series of abandoned buildings.
And yet it was home to as many as 1,500 people at a time – a transient population of migrants trying to get to United Kingdom.
Most of the people in this camp were Iraqi Kurds, who have often spent many thousands of pounds to get this far and are resigned to spending thousands more in their efforts to get to British soil.
When the camp was dismantled behind them, there were buses to take some people to shelters, especially women and children. But many more were left to fend for themselves. The weather was just as miserable as the people.
While we were filming, a smiling man came walking down the street. “What happened here?” he asked in flawless English. I told him that a migrant camp had been closed. “Oh,” he replied. “It’s my home.”
Rawaz Khoshnaw, a trained engineer, had been a translator in Iraq and had traveled to Europe via a nine-day truck ride through Turkey. As we talked, water dripped from his pants – he had returned to camp after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Channel.
He looked at the camp and at the police officers stationed at the gates, which prevented anyone from returning to collect belongings. “I feel like I’m getting cold tonight,” he told me.
“I’ve got a cough, I got a cold because I’ve been here for 22 days. There’s been a lot of rain. Your stuff gets wet, you can not dry it because it’s raining. We start bonfires sometimes, but not every day.
“And now I do not know what to do tonight. Look – it was my home. A temporary home. I never wanted to be here, but I live here.”
He wants to be in the UK and like so many migrants I have talked to in these camps, he intends to keep trying until he succeeds. Having reached all the way from Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea or Afghanistan, for example, many migrants in northern France feel that they have come too far to give up their dream when Britain is actually within sight.
The story of arduous travels is well known in migrant camps around the world. But among a group of cold men, huddled in foil blankets, we meet some who passed through Belarus, along the route that the president had made possible and promoted. Alexander Lukashenko.
Marouane (not his real name) tells me that he was a photographer who paid thousands of pounds for a plane and a visa to first get to Minsk and then on to the border with Poland.
He says he was lucky to survive the experience – freezing, being beaten by border guards and left without food or drink in forests, which he refers to as jungles.
“It’s like a wild journey,” he said, “from the jungle, it was very difficult. It was so cold. It really is not for humans. You can die, it is very possible to die in the jungle.
“I would say to people ‘Please do not go to Belarus. It is very very difficult. You will not survive it from there. It is very difficult. Especially now.
“They bring a lot of police, especially to the Polish border. They can use you for political purposes. Please do not come.”
He was rejected at both the Polish and Lithuanian borders, but says he eventually entered Poland after Belarusian border guards cut a hole in the fence.
From there, Marouane says he was packed into a van with 40 other people – the start of a journey that took him through Poland and Germany and on into France.
“Yes, we’re here, but it’s like dying. It’s not a life. It’s been 13 days since I’m here and you can not sleep.
“I’ve tried twice to get to the UK – the first time our boat’s engines had broken down and today our boat got a hole and the water comes in. But I will try again. There is no choice. You have to. . “
Around him his friends shake; their clothes still wet after their failed journey. Their lives are miserable, but what keeps them going is the dream of reaching the British shores.
It is no wonder that the challenge of slowing down or even stopping migration across channels is easy to say, but much harder to deliver.