In Greece migrants turn to freight trains for a chance to go north

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Migrants use abandoned freight trains as shelter
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Migrants use abandoned freight trains as shelter
An Algerian migrant smokes inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
A note on a wagon announces the route of a freight train from Thessaloniki to Gevgelija, Presevo and Kelebia, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Litter is seen between abandoned railway wagons used as shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
A migrant walks between abandoned railway wagons used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant shows a picture on his mobile of fellow migrants walking in Macedonia, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. According to the migrant, his mobile phone was broken by Macedonian police when he was arrested and returned to Greece. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
A migrant sleeps inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
A migrant sits next to his belongings as he waits for a freight train to depart, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Algerian migrants lay on the railway tracks as they wait for a freight train to depart, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant holds up his injured hand inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 5, 2017. The migrant said he was injured in his effort to jump without documents on a freight train heading to Macedonia. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Algerian migrants rest in an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Anise, 21, an English teacher from Algeria, rests inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 7, 2017. Anise arrived at the Greek island of Chios in October 2016. His application for asylum was rejected. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant smokes inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Habib (L), 22, from Algeria and a fellow migrant run to jump on a freight train in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. Habib arrived at the Greek island of Rhodes three months ago and he reached the mainland after hiding in a truck on a passenger ferry to Athens. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant checks his phone as he waits for a freight train to depart, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian borders without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Habib, 22, from Algeria sits in an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. Habib arrived at the Greek island of Rhodes three months ago and he reached the mainland after hiding in a truck on a passenger ferry to Athens. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Migrants walk among railway wagons in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Iman, 39, from Morocco, stands inside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. Iman is four months pregnant and arrived in Greece seven months ago. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Algerian migrants run to jump on a freight train in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant carries food in a plastic bag outside an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
A migrant jumps on a freight train in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Habib, 22, (R) from Algeria looks around as he and a friend jump on a freight train in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. Habib arrived at the Greek island of Rhodes three months ago and he reached the mainland after hiding in a truck on a passenger ferry to Athens. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
An Algerian migrant sits in an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Mohamed Khaleuf from Morocco, stands next to a freight train before it departs, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Algerian migrants are seen on a freight train before its departure, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Habib, 22, from Algeria is seen with his friends on an abandoned railway wagon used as a shelter by stranded migrants in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 11, 2017. On April 6, Habib and his friends jumped on a freight train in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents. They were arrested in Macedonia and returned back to Greece. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Algerian migrants are seen on a freight train before its departure, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis 
Mohamed Khaleuf from Morocco, stands next to a freight train before it departs, in an effort to cross the Greek-Macedonian border without documents, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
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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.

In the abandoned trains where Khaleuf and others live, conditions are grim, without electricity or running water. For food, they queue up at a nearby camp in a former toilet paper factory.

People come and go, leaving piles of garbage behind. Some carriages burned down in accidents when migrants tried to warm up in freezing winter temperatures.

"Here we live like animals," said Habib, a 22-year-old Algerian who crossed from Turkey to the island of Rhodes and then hid under a truck on a ferry to Athens.

Together with a friend, he had made an attempt to leave Greece days earlier, leaping onto a train with his blue rucksack. Without documents, the pair were arrested in Macedonia and sent back.

Despite the dire conditions, many migrants choose the carriages over the camps as they can keep an eye on passing trains, they said.

Mustafa, a 32-year-old Algerian who arrived in Greece last October and in Thessaloniki in March, hoped to get out of there soon. "Tomorrow I hope to be in Macedonia!" he said.

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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