Emad al-Masaadi, a 41-year-old house painter and taxi driver, fled Damascus with his wife and three young boys after their home was bombed in late 2012, just one of the countless hard-luck stories generated by Syria's civil war. They landed in Beirut, but after more than a year without work or cash, Masaadi wanted out.
"So I asked my friends, 'How can we get to Europe?' " says Masaadi, an industrious and optimistic man with a gracious smile.
The answer was clear: "Smugglers were the only way," he recalls.