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Thousands of asylum seekers are stranded in Greece after neighboring Macedonia introduced strict border controls. The small Balkan country says only migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq can cross its border and head on to Western Europe. People who have been stranded on the border for weeks were bussed back to Athens yesterday. But as Joanna Kakissis reports, hundreds more arrive on the border each day.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Privately-chartered buses drop off migrants outside the Greek village of Idomeni. It's walking distance from the Balkan country of Macedonia. They line up along a newly-erected barbed-wire fence along the border. Shaid Olahan wears a brown parka and shivers in the biting wind.
SHAID OLAHAN: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: He says he's an Afghan, one of three nationalities the Macedonian police are allowing through.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Go here. Go back.
KAKISSIS: But a Macedonian border guard turns him back after seeing his ID.
OLAHAN: Told me, your document no good - with this you go back.
KAKISSIS: They don't believe your document?
OLAHAN: Yeah, he don't believe my document.
KAKISSIS: It's a photocopy. A U.N. staffer asks Olahan about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Where did you get this document from - from police? Are you sure?
KAKISSIS: Then, a Greek policeman speaks to him and several others who have been turned away. They include a family who says they're from Iraq but don't have IDs or registration papers issued by Greek authorities.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Where are you from, Iraq - paper, paper - no paper?
KAKISSIS: Just a couple of days ago, more than 2,000 migrants rejected by Macedonia camped out here in tents. They included Moroccans, Iranians, Pakistanis and Somalis. They hoped the border would open. But the Greek police cleared everyone out and bused them back to Athens. Macedonia views only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis as refugees and is letting them pass through on their long trek to Western Europe. They treat everyone else as an economic migrant.
Seventeen-year-old Lake Karaoghlan from Somalia waits at a highway rest stop near the border. He's traveling with several fellow Somalis who say they fled the Islamist terrorists know as al-Shabab.
LAKE KARAOGHLAN: They're going to kill you without no reason.
KAKISSIS: His friend Mahmoud Ahmed is just 15.
MAHMOUD AHMED: We feel bad. And they're saying you are economic immigrant. But there is a war.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: There are economic migrants here. At the same rest stop, I meet a Pakistani man who gives his name as Ali Qadri. He's 32 and speaks very good Greek. He claims he learned it in Pakistan, but it sounds like he may have lived in Greece for many years.
ALI QADRI: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: "I'm going to say I'm from Afghanistan," he says. "It's a lie, I know. But I have to try to get past that border."
Chances are Qadri won't get very far. He will likely get sent back on a bus to Athens to a disused arena from the 2004 Olympic Games. That's where authorities are housing the thousands of migrants now stuck in the Greek capital. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Idomeni, Greece.
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