• Age: 26
• Left Sudan: January 2009
• Journey time to Calais: 5 years
Mustafa Hassan, in Calais. PICTURE: Paul Grover for The Telegraph
Ask Mustafa Hassan what life was like back in his hometown of El Managil – 150 miles south of Khartoum, not far from the banks of the White Nile – and he sums it up in one word.
His father had died, and he never knew his mother. He alone was responsible for providing for his seven sisters. And so he took the decision, encouraged by his sisters, to set out to find work – the idea being that he would send money back to support the family.
First he took a bus to Khartoum. From there, he began the long journey up to Cairo – walking, hitch-hiking, and traversing the desert for 18 days.
With a group of Sudanese he met in the Egyptian capital, he crossed through Sinai and reached the border with Israel.
“There’s a big fence on the border, so we climbed up it,” he said. “But then the Egyptian police started shooting at us.”
He made it across, and finished his journey on foot, where he arrived in Tel Aviv and found work as a cleaner in the business district of Or Yehuda. He stayed for three years.
Why did he leave? Surely there was money, and life was bearable?
“They don’t like black people there,” he said, raising his eyebrows.
So Mr Hassan, with his savings, flew back to Sudan to return to his family and hopefully find work there.
“But when I got back no one left me in peace. I was hassled a lot by the police in Khartoum – for two months they kept on stopping me, harming me.
“Some of my friends laughed when they saw me and said ‘I thought you’d gone to England!’ But I couldn’t stay in Sudan – there was no work. So I set off again.”
This time his journey took him further; to the coast at Port Sudan, and then across into Egypt. He walked and caught public transport up through Egypt, arriving in Alexandria on the coast where he paid $3,000 to board a boat to Italy.
“It was so hard. We were at sea for 15 days.
“Then when we landed we ran off into Italy – sleeping outdoors, hiding from the police, running all the way to Paris.”
From there he travelled on to Calais, arriving in November. Many of the people he was on the boat with have also pitched up in the forest camp he now calls home.
He has tried to sneak on to a lorry “75 times,” he said, but has been caught every time.
He wants to make it to the UK because he believes he will be able to work there, and thinks the country is tolerant and accepting.
“My dream is to go to England,” he said. “Even if I have to die to get there.”
Omar Ali Khan
• Age: 22
• Left Pakistan: June 2013
• Journey time to Calais: 17 months
Immigrants in Calais. PICTURE: Paul Grover for The Telegraph
Omar Ali Khan won’t allow his portrait to be taken – and with good reason.
“The Taliban have links everywhere,” he said. “They would kill me.”
The jihadis are the reason why Mr Khan left Pakistan, forcing him to travel by ferry, foot, bus and car for 17 months to reach Calais.
“I’m actually a civil engineer, with a BSc in physics,” he said. “I worked as a civil engineer for three years.
“But I retrained, and became a nurse.”
In his hometown of Peshawar, the volatile city in the north which acts as a gateway to the Taliban-controlled tribal areas and scene of this week’s massacre in a school, he began working to vaccinate children against polio.
“The Taliban didn’t want me to carry on doing that, because they saw it as cooperating with the West. So they wrote me a letter, threatening to shoot me if I carried on vaccinating the children.
“I did carry on – and so they came for me.”
He rolled up his trouser leg, to show a scar from the gunshot wound in his leg – sustained when a member of the Taliban shot at him in a drive-by shooting from a motorbike. When he could walk again, he left.
His first port of call was Karachi, the metropolis on the Arabian Sea. From there he set sail through the Gulf of Oman into Iran, and made his way across the country for six days to Shiraz.
Nineteen days later he was in Istanbul, having travelled “by bus or other things – walking, in a car.”
He explained: “They have minibuses or big, adapted cars that can take 16 people.”
From Istanbul it was only a few days’ walk to Greece, crossing the river at Orestiada, and on to Athens.
There, he rested.
“From Athens I got a boat to Italy, and a train up to Torino.”
And it was in Italy that he had his first encounter with the police.
“I was asked for my ticket. So I just smiled, and said I didn’t understand. But they knew I didn’t have one, so they took me off the train,” he said.
Remarkably, he was then given shelter – provided a room in a house with, he said, 38 rooms “all for migrants”.
He stayed for a year, learning fluent Italian, and working for the first three months. But then the work stopped, and so, after eight months’ unemployment, he moved on and made the final push up to Calais.
In England he has friends who have found work, and he knows there is a large community of Pakistanis he can join.
“I will be safe in England,” he said. “I tried to get across yesterday, and thought I’d almost made it.
“But I got hauled out at the last minute, and left my phone in the container. So my phone’s in England. But I’m still here.”
• Age: 25
• Left Eritrea: August 2013
• Journey time to Calais: 15 months
Migrants walk along the railway near the port in Calais. PICTURE: Paul Grover for The Telegraph
Like thousands of young men before him Medhane Tsegay came to the conclusion that there was no future for him in Eritrea, so set out from his home of Keren to walk to a better life.
For two weeks he walked – spending three days traversing the hills that surround Eritrea’s second city, before crossing the desert into Sudan. He arrived in Kasalla, and then on to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
But life was no better there.
“The Sudanese police beat you, and take what you have,” he said. “Some of them are good and some bad. But they put me in prison three times for not having any documents. And each time I’d pay some money, and be let out again.”
For five months he worked in Khartoum, doing odd jobs as a builder’s labourer, and joining the huge Eritrean community who live illegally in their wealthier neighbouring capital.
“I had no job, and was scared of going back to prison because they said they’d send me to Eritrea.”
Why would that be so terrible?
“Eritrea is so bad,” he said darkly. “And I knew that in Europe I could be safe.”
Mr Tsegay had the connections, from within the migratory community, to get on to a lorry travelling up through Libya. His friends stumped up the $1,000 needed for transport to the Libyan coastal city of Benghazi.
“The journey was terrible,” he said. “Some people died inside the lorry and they were thrown into the desert.
“And then others said they would pay the traffickers in Benghazi, but once they got there couldn’t get the money. So they were shot in the head.”
He arrived in Benghazi on January 9, and was given a space on the floor of another people smuggler’s compound.
“There were mattresses on the floors, but that was it,” he said. “It had parasites and was dirty. But the owners didn’t care.”
Eventually he took a boat to Italy, arriving in Europe after a crossing of eight days – “it was too hot, and there was no water,” he said.
In November he arrived in Calais, for the final push to Britain. He wants to work there, and thinks he can make a life for himself in the UK.
“And I’m going to make it to England. I’m never going back home.”