Although thousands of migrants have arrived successfully in Europe on makeshift boats from Libya and Turkey, not all attempts are successful. One Pakistani migrant recalls his tragic journey in the Mediterranean Sea, the dangers in Libya and his "small dreams" for the future.
Shrazi Bhatti doesn't get out much. The 20-year old spends most of his days in his apartment in Libya's capital Tripoli, learning computer skills with his brother or working in his father's photography studio below the apartment. Bhatti only leaves to go to the supermarket, but stays put if he hears fighting between the various militias that divide Tripoli. He tries to lay low and not act suspicious.
"I try not to make friends here," he told InfoMigrants. "It is very difficult to survive and I don't want to be killed or kidnapped for money"
Bhatti's family is from Pakistan but came to Libya decades ago. His father arrived in Tripoli in 1976, to buy and sell photography equipment. Back then, the relative economic prosperity and stability under former dictator Muammar Gaddafi's regime was a preferable situation to the lower salaries in Pakistan.
The rest of Bhatti's family, his three sisters, younger brother and his mother, came to Libya in 2000, with some of them returning to Pakistan in the mid-2000s to go to school there. In 2014, the rest of the family returned to Pakistan to take care of his father, who suffered from heart problems.
In August 2015, Bhatti and his family decided to take their chances for a better life in Europe as Libya was embroiled in a chaotic civil war. Human smugglers promised them they had a "huge ship" that would bring them to Europe safely, but when Bhatti and his family came to the Libyan shore to disembark, the vessel that would take them to Europe was only a small, unevenly weighted boat. The migrants got on board, with women and children on the top half of the boat that pointed upward off the sea, and men on the bottom half of the boat tipping into the water.
It only took one hour until the boat started to sink, and the Libyan smugglers who accompanied them made their escape on another vessel.
Panic broke out on board the boat. In the first ten minutes, Bhatti's 10-year-old sister was already struggling in the water, unable to swim. One of the other African migrants also found himself in the water, and held onto to Bhatti's sister to buoy himself from the waves. Bhatti's sister, being smaller than the African migrant holding onto her, was dragged underneath the tides and drowned.
Bhatti and his family stayed afloat in the sea wearing life jackets for eight more hours, with his mother in urgent need of medical treatment due to her illnesses. Even though a Libyan coast guard vessel started approaching the boat, Bhatti's mother died due to her blood-related health issues.
Bhatti reports that members of the Libyan coast guard, as they started pulling migrants aboard the vessel to rescue them, lashed out at them physically, with Bhatti being hit three times and sustaining light injuries.
"We are human beings. Why are they hitting us?" he said. The coast guard would not let Bhatti take his mother's lifeless body back to Libya, and thus had to leave her in the sea. Of the 400 migrants that were originally on the boat, only 125 survived.
He was brought to a reception center and stayed there for a week, before returning back to Tripoli.
Bhatti currently takes care of his younger brother, while his other family members have returned to Pakistan. His father is currently receiving medical treatment in Pakistan. Bhatti says he would do anything to leave Libya and have a better life in Europe. For him, returning to Pakistan is not an option - nor is staying in Libya.
"There is no money to be made in Pakistan," he said. "I want to go to Europe. I have many friends in Germany who arrived from Libya and are doing fine there." Bhatti once worked for a Libyan company, where he was promised being paid the equivalent of $700 a month - but he ended up not seeing a single cent when he asked for his paycheck.
Bhatti would like to get a degree in Information Technology in Europe, and his brother would too. He tries to learn the ins and outs of the trade online, but the lack of electricity often means that he is left without access to the internet.
I have "small dreams," he remarked. "All I want to do is complete my studies, find a nice job and have a good life."
Shrazi Bhatti shared his story with InfoMigrants in August 2018.