Britain! After years trekking through countless countries, weeks in a filthy camp on the French coast, seven gruelling hours on a small boat tossed about by the Channel, Walid has finally made it. He’s managed to cross the so-called death route. His friend Falah, though, is still waiting. For three weeks, two AFP teams followed Walid, a Kuwaiti, Falah, an Iraqi and his two daughters, nine-year-old Arwa and 13-year-old Rawane, who is severely diabetic, from the town of Grande-Synthe in northern France to Dover in the south of England via the choppy waters of the Channel.Just 33 kilometres (21 miles) separate the French coast from the white cliffs of Dover, visible on a clear day, but the crossing is one of the world’s busiest — and most dangerous. Still, more and more people are attempting the risky passage.Between January 1 and August 31, 6,200 migrants tried their luck, according to French maritime authorities. In the whole of 2019, 2,294 migrants attempted to cross.Those who have a bit more cash get an inflatable dinghy. Those who don’t resort to paddleboards, kayaks or a simple rubber ring. In August, a 28-year-old drowned while trying to cross on an inflatable dinghy. Last year, four migrants were found dead at sea or on a French beach. The crossing unfoldsIn a wood on the edge of the Grande-Synthe railway line, under a makeshift tarpaulin tent, Walid and Falah are glued to their phone.It’s their holy grail, their only link with the people smuggler who will give them the green light to take to the sea.For 3,000 euros ($3,500) per person, they will board a small rubber boat with a rickety engine.On a WhatsApp call, the silhouette of the smuggler pops up.They have never met him. These types of criminal networks, often Kurdish or Albanian, use go-betweens to establish contact.– “How are you, my brother?” asks Walid, 29.– “Well, thanks be to God.”– “So, do you have news?”– “No…”– “Tomorrow, Inshallah?”– “Inshallah… If it’s good weather tomorrow, we’re going.”For a month now, Walid has been waiting with Falah and his girls, whom he met in Frankfurt on the migrant route towards a better life — full of hope.“Even if this journey is nicknamed ‘the death route’, we want to cross.“We’re heading into the unknown — there is just God, the water and us. Allah will decide our fate,” says Falah.A reserved man in his fifties, Falah escaped Iraq in 2015 when the Islamic State group was in full expansion, joining hundreds of thousands of others on the road to Europe.Leaving his wife behind — a matter he refused to dwell on — he travelled on foot from Karbala in Iraq to Germany, which in 2015 decided to welcome close to 900,000 migrants before closing its borders, via Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Croatia, among others.In Germany for two years, he felt he’d found a host country. But his requests for asylum failed, so he set off again.Falah, his dark hair streaked with grey, said he’s not “asking for the moon.”“I just want to live decently, I want my daughters to feel free and safe.”Walid, meanwhile, is a “Bidoon”, a stateless tribesman.These have no passport, and Kuwait won’t recognise them as citizens or foreign nationals which means they have no political, social or economic rights.