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Asylum-Seekers Stuck At Greece-Macedonia Border Angered By Their Plight


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing in foreign language).



That's the sound of people passing time, people who have nothing but time. It's a migrant singing to other migrants while they're all stuck in Greece. They're not allowed to cross the border into Macedonia, the next country over. Reality is sinking in at the camp where our colleague Joanna Kakissis found them.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The men sit on dusty railroad tracks listening to chants about open borders through a borrowed speaker. They've camped out on the tracks for days. Families have also pitched tents here. Ismail Ali, a former printing factory manager from Raqqa, Syria, organized the protest.

ISMAIL ALI: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: We're trying to pressure Macedonia to open the border, he says, by blockading freight headed north. Some 11,000 asylum-seekers - mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans - are stuck here. That's because the European Union closed its doors to migrants earlier this month. Most like Abdullah Abdullah wanted to travel north to countries like Germany. He's a 27-year-old environmental engineer from Aleppo, Syria.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: Why don't the Europeans want us, he says. We are smart people. We work very hard. We can do a lot of good in Europe. It's not fair. Ahmad al-Mohammadi is a lanky computer scientist from Fallujah, Iraq. He brews tea over a campfire. He's been sleeping in a tent here for 40 days.

AHMAD AL-MOHAMMADI: I have a hope that Angela Merkel and Germany people - I hope they do something to open this border. I stay here because I just think that maybe - maybe - they just see us in eyes of mercy and open this border for us.

YARAH: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: And then there are the families. I found one sleeping in an abandoned railcar. Hanan Tikleh is 24, here with her husband Mohammed and their children. Their 6-year-old daughter, Yarah, and 4-year-old son, Mustafa.

HANAN TIKLEH: (Speaking Arabic).

KAKISSIS: One guy just came here, she says, and told me that five European countries would send planes to take us to our new lives. But she shakes head. Tikleh knows it's not true and that for now, they will get no farther than this camp. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Idomeni, Greece. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.