WIDER IMAGE-On freight trains, migrants in Greece seek new routes north

Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:00pm GMT

* Photo essay at reut.rs/2pAZ07k

By Alexandros Avramidis

THESSALONIKI, Greece, April 19 (Reuters) - It was Mohamed Khaleuf's third attempt to cross the Greek-Macedonian border hiding in a freight train and he had no plans to give up trying.

"I promised myself I would try five times. If I'm not successful, I will try to cross from somewhere else," said Khaleuf, a migrant from Morocco in his early twenties.

Khaleuf is among dozens of migrants, mostly young Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians, who arrived in Greece in the last year and found shelter in old rusting carriages around a station in the outskirts of Greece's northern city of Thessaloniki.

From there, they monitor freight trains heading to central Europe. Whenever trains stop in the station, the migrants try to sneak into their compartments or jump in between wagons.

If they're lucky, they make it across unnoticed. Some said they plan to get off before the border and continue on foot. Often, they are arrested by Macedonian guards and sent back to Greece. No one can say how many have made it. A Greek government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

More than a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015, landing in Greece from Turkey and then streaming through the Balkans, heading north to Germany or Austria.

But that route shut in March last year following an agreement between the EU and Turkey, stranding about 60,000 people in makeshift and formal camps across Greece.   Continued...

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