'It’s better to sleep in a container and leave than to stay here and die'

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By Bryan Carter
'It’s better to sleep in a container and leave than to stay here and die'

In Zeebrugge, I meet three men on a mission. Tonight, they will try to board a truck headed for the UK, where they hope to start a new life. Their sole belongings fit in a plastic bag.

Bilal, a 20 year old Algerian, is the only one that agrees to show his face on camera.

Their first stop is this scouting location, overlooking the harbor.

"Look how the security guards are looking around inside. That is police or security. They drive around to make sure no one gets in."

A few minutes later, the men are on the move again. There is no police around, they decide to make a run for it. Momo, 48, has a hard time keeping up with his two younger friends.

The trucks behind these fences could be their ticket to the United Kingdom.

Samir, 19, leads the way. He has already been arrested three times and fears that, if it happens again, he will be placed in a detention center.

Eventually, the heavy presence of security deters them from going ahead with their initial idea.

But one truck full of cars though could be their plan B. Bilal checks if they could hide in any of these vehicles. All the cars are locked, and the three friends decide to retreat.

Earlier that evening, I met Bilal, Samir and Momo at the house of a local priest, who gives out free food every day.

"I came here to go to Britain," explains Bilal, "to work there, because the life there is good, here in Europe if you don’t have papers you cannot work."

The recent tragedy that killed 39 migrants on board a truck in the UK did not change their minds.

"For me the danger is to stay here craving for food. Be hungry, eat expired food, says Momo. "We sleep in abandoned houses and in the streets, and the worst thing is that we sleep in the cold. It’s better to sleep in a container and leave than to stay here and die.

It’s hard to know how many migrants pass through Zeebrugge. Belgian authorities refuse to give any information at the moment, but the Ministry of Interior previously indicated that close to 1,800 migrants have been arrested in the port city this year alone.

After two weeks of fruitless attempts, Samir gives up and decides to head to France.

Bilal and Momo stay. Tomorrow, they will start the mission all over again.