Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war and made the journey to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying journey with dangers at every turn. A group of young Syrian brothers and friends are risking their lives trying to reach Germany.
Clinging to a decrepit fishing boat, hundreds of migrants have set off from the Libyan coast.
Among them are six young men from Syria - four brothers and two friends - who have fled civil war at home. They record the journey on their mobile phones.
Ahead lie 2.5 million square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea.
After 15 hours of mercifully calm seas, two ships appear on the horizon: the Italian coast guard. The migrants erupt in cheers of "Italia".
The migrants were taken to the island of Lampedusa and on to Sicily - where they are let free. They took the first night train north to Milan.
It is here that VOA first met them - nervous, exhausted, fearful - huddling together on a cold marble bench in the ornate surroundings of Milan station. Eldest brother Ghiyath recounts their journey.
“We escaped to Jordan, and from there to Algeria, then we went illegally to Libya, it took five days across the desert. It was very hard, five days close to death. We got to Tripoli and from there to Sabratah. We had a lot of trouble there because the trafficker stole from us, then we escaped and took the boat to Lampedusa," said Ghiyath.
Ghiyath says that boat trip was more terrifying than the war back home.
“It was a death trip. Your mind stops thinking, you stop thinking about anybody and anything, even about yourself. You’re just living minute by minute on this hard journey. It’s a very strange feeling," he said.
The young men are on their way to Germany on the night train. The brothers’ father is already in Berlin - their final destination. Their mother is still in Syria. Younger brother Elaa explains why they left.
“We have lost our future in Syria and we hope to find it in Germany for now. I hope things will get better in Syria and that we will be abe to return there to live," said Elaa.
With minutes to go they grab their few belongings and head to the platform.
Under European laws, refugees must apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive. Police sometimes search the carriages and send the migrants back to Italy. The brothers’ future will be decided on this train.
For two days, there is no news. Then VOA received a message - the brothers have made it to Munich.
After a night in a refugee shelter, they are on their way to Berlin. We manage a fleeting reunion before a high-speed train whisks them on the last leg of their epic journey north. Ghiyath is relieved and elated.
“I can’t wait to see my father again after six years apart. I hope that I can see my mother again soon and we can be one family all together,” he said.
There is much tragedy in Europe’s migrant crisis. Solving it won’t be easy. But at least for these young brothers, the escape from war across desert and ocean has a happy ending.