For Syrian in UK, the road ahead is still daunting

Refugees find life in Europe isn't without challenges
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    Refugees find life in Europe isn't without challenges


Refugees find life in Europe isn't without challenges 02:25

Story highlights

  • Milad traveled for seven days in a small wooden boat to reach Europe, and snuck into the UK hidden in a truck
  • But more hardship lies ahead for the Syrian refugee, who has been granted asylum and has a residential permit
  • Activists are pushing governments to take in more refugees, as ordinary citizens are opening their homes

Milad took your questions in a live chat on Facebook. See his answers here.

London (CNN)His journey took four months and cost thousands of dollars. But he is one of those lucky enough to have made it.

"I'm in UK now, I'm in safe place ... I can start to build something for my life," said Milad, who asked that his real name not be used because he fears the family he left behind in Syria may face reprisals.
    Milad snuck into the United Kingdom from Belgium late last year, hidden in a smuggler's truck. It took him five tries before he made it across the border. He checked his smartphone to make sure he was in Britain, before he and another Syrian refugee inside the truck started banging on the door. The driver never came, but the police did -- they took Milad to a refugee center.
    But that was one of the easier parts of his journey. Before that he had traveled from Syria to Egypt, boarding a small, crowded wooden boat in Alexandria that sailed for two days to Libya before picking up even more refugees and migrants, until about 400 people were on board. Most of them were from Syria, some were from Egypt and Afghanistan, a few were from Africa. They sailed toward Italy for seven days.
    'Our heart is really broken'
    'Our heart is really broken'


      'Our heart is really broken'


    'Our heart is really broken' 02:20
    During those days and nights on the Mediterranean Sea, he survived on water and some dates. He read the Quran. And he prayed.
    "You are on the sea. And there is no anybody around you. And there is no anybody who see you. Just the God who can't help you," said Milad.
    But there is more hardship ahead for the 29-year-old trained dentist. He has been looking for work for months, with the help of a job center.
    "I can't work as a dentist, but at least I want to work as an assistant," he said.
    In the UK, refugees receive financial support -- including a housing allowance and Jobseeker's allowance, which Milad says he's grateful for. But he still worries about his future here. He fears it will take years to qualify to become a dentist, and that he may never pass the written exam. He has heard stories of other refugees who were doctors and dentists back home who have failed the test multiple times.
    Meanwhile, he feels pressured to take any job that is available.
    "It's very difficult things after you studied like five years, six years, and you work after that, and you will come to the new country to work like washing dishes ... it is very difficult," he says.
    Milad is alone here. His brother is in Sweden, where he says immigrants are given more support, and more time to upgrade their skills and education.
    "In Sweden they give you like one year or two years, because they know this is a new country for you, it's very difficult to start to live in this country," said Milad. "Then they will start to encourage you to find a job, they will help you to find a job, but this is not the same in UK."

    European citizens opening doors

    With Europe struggling to cope with an influx of refugees, activists say where governments are falling short, ordinary citizens are stepping up to help.
    "The public are miles ahead of the politicians on this. We've seen people open up their front doors, but we need a deal to get politicians to cut back the barbed wire and let people into the continent of Europe and around the world from Syria," said Sam Barratt, with the international activist group Avaaz.
    After seeing the painful image of Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned off the coast of Greece, one London father offered to open up his home to refugees.
    "The tag on the photo said, 'Never let them say England is full.' And I thought that was right. I thought, England isn't full," said Mark Tanner, a lawyer living with his wife and two children in London.
    Tanner's son is nearly the same age as little Aylan.
    "The boy looked a lot like my little boy, so I could completely empathize with the father who thought it was such a sad sight," he said, his eyes tearing up.
    "As a father and a human being, I don't think it's right that children should be ever dying in such circumstances," Tanner said.
    He's hoping to welcome a Syrian refugee into his home, perhaps an unaccompanied minor, or a mother and child. He hopes others will pitch in, too, however they are able.
    "Donating 10 pounds, 20 pounds is good, and I think all of that is good and I think that has pressurized the British government to do more. I think there are always steps that we can do more," he said.