Clinging to a plank in the cold Mediterranean sea, Ayman Mostafa waded through the debris and dead bodies trying to identify his wife and daughter.
But his attempts were all in vain. His 28-year-old wife and three-year-old daughter disappeared in the October 2013 Lampedusa tragedy which claimed hundreds of migrants' lives.
Speaking about his experience on Times of Malta's programme Times Talk last night, Dr Mustafa said he had not only lost his family, job, and home... he even became known with a number: '13VO84'.
The Syrian surgeon has since settled down in Malta and works at Mater Dei Hospital. Dr Mustafa said he asked himself everyday if he had done enough to reach a safe place in a legal way.
He said that when he left Aleppo in Syria he went to Turkey thinking it would be for a short time. But after three months he realised it was going to take a long time for the situation to come back to normal so he found a job in Libya.
It was there that he discovered that Libya was no better than Syria and again he tried to find safe place for his family.
He tried all the Gulf countries with no luck and then tried to obtain a visa to a European country. But it was to no avail.
It was only then that he started thinking of getting to Europe illegally. Some of his friends had made it that way and it was the only option.
“Although this was a risk, we were already living at high risk… I was forced to take this decision. I wanted to hide for a short time and then return to my country... I have now lost hope I will ever go back,” he said.
Dr Mustafa said everyone had a responsibility to share the migration problems.
"We feel abandoned. We need help but nobody seems willing to help us,” he said, as Malta today hosts EU migration Valletta summit.
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