THE BLOG
13/09/2015 17:44 BST | Updated 13/09/2016 06:12 BST

Europe Is a Distant Dream for Most Syrian Refugees

Just existing is a daily struggle and for the young - unable to work, marry or leave the squalid refugee camps and half-built apartments they now call home - their lives are in limbo. People feel trapped, caged in by a situation that is not of their making with no end in sight.

Among Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa valley this week, there's one hot topic of conversation - the swell of migration to Europe. They have seen the news on shared satellite TVs, and heard the stories of acquaintances forging new lives and futures in Germany, Sweden and elsewhere.

For young people who have been living hand to mouth in one-room tents with their families for the last four years, the chance of a fresh start in Europe is tantalising. The dangers of the journey, crossing by land, sea or plane to Turkey and on to Greece, are no deterrent for most. Families with small children are nervous of the risks, but the teenagers are full of bravado. "Here we are dying slowly, there we may die fast but at least we will have tried," one told me.

The desire to escape is not surprising. Lebanon, a country the size of Yorkshire beset by its own problems, is hosting at least 1.2million Syrian refugees. Resources are in critically short supply. Many Syrians arrived with nothing after fleeing the crushing war over the border three or four years ago, and they still have nothing.

Just existing is a daily struggle and for the young - unable to work, marry or leave the squalid refugee camps and half-built apartments they now call home - their lives are in limbo. People feel trapped, caged in by a situation that is not of their making with no end in sight.

But for almost all of them, Europe will remain a distant dream. Making the crossing to Greece and on to the rest of the continent takes money, physical strength and valid papers to get out of Lebanon - things many of the refugees living here do not have.

It costs a minimum of $3,000 dollars to pay a smuggler to go to Europe, which is a struggle for everyone and impossible for a lot of people. In addition to providing things like school catch up classes and sanitation infrastructure, Save the Children give families financial assistance to help meet their basic needs. But that money barely covers the cost of rent (there are no formal refugee camps in Lebanon so even those in tents must rent the land), food and clothing.

For a lot of Syrians, their financial situation is getting steadily worse. People are in debt up their eyeballs, while the opportunities for work are diminishing and aid agency budgets are being cut as funding dries up - WFP has been forced halve the amount of food aid it gives. Last winter families couldn't even afford firewood, so they were forced to burn rubbish in their homes to keep warm during the brutally cold winters. When you don't know where your next meal is coming from and you have nothing to sell, paying thousands of dollars for a one way ticket out is not an option.

The only recourse for these people is resettlement through the official programme, coordinated by UNHCR, which identifies the most vulnerable families in the regional host countries and puts them forward. This is the scheme that the UK recently offered to take 20,000 Syrians through over the next five years, which was a huge step forward.

Even then, though, only a fraction of the people here will qualify for formal resettlement. UNHCR expects to put 9,000 names forward this year from Lebanon - 0.75% of the registered refugees in the country. The reality is that for the vast majority of these refugees, their near future is in Lebanon, until the day they can go back to Syria and rebuild their homes and lives.

That future will be difficult and will involve families having to manage their expectations and dreams about what their lives would be like, the ones they had before war cruelly interrupted. But Syrians are resourceful and resilient, and we as the international community can help the ease the burden a little.

By increasing aid funding to the region and ensuring that refugees' rights are recognised, we can make sure that at least no one freezes to death in the winter snows, as two babies did last year, or that children are not forced to work in the fields to support their hungry families. Making the dangerous journey to Europe should not be the only hope of a decent life.