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Thousands of migrants journey through Macedonia, Serbia en route to Europe

In Europe, it's the summer of mass migration. Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News follows along as thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa travel by train from Macedonia to Serbia, hoping to eventually reach Germany and other points north.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Following last week's tear-gassing of migrants at the Greek border, Macedonian authorities have begun allowing those seeking safety to pass through the country again, as they travel north to Serbia and beyond.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News caught up with a group of migrants on that journey. She reports on their stories as they rode the rails.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    Night falls, but they keep on walking. Only a few more yards, and they will have left Greece behind. They will be in Macedonia. By morning, they're still walking.

    Word has traveled back down the line: Go to Gevgelija station. Some have spent the night here. They have seen worse places on their odyssey. It's dirty, but they do their best. The Macedonians have managed to put order into chaos, despite the swelling numbers. Syrians and others with small children are given priority. Extra trains have been laid on to take them to the next border with Serbia.

    It's 110 miles away, a four-hour journey, easy compared to what they have been through before. They have paid 10 euros per ticket, like any other passenger.

    Where are you from?

  • MAN:

    I'm from Syria.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    From Syria? From which place?

  • MAN:

    Aleppo, Afrin.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    From Aleppo and Afrin, from Afrin.

    The U.N. High Commission for Refugees says 7,000 traveled to Serbia this past weekend. Many people on this train are going from Syria to Germany, so they're about halfway through their journey. And this is the point where they're full of hope. They're on the move. They think they have left the worst behind them.

    Germany has said it will take 800,000 people this year. That's a lot, but there are many more trains behind this one. They can't take everyone and there are thousands more people on the way. Some are fleeing Aleppo and Bashar al-Assad, others Raqqa and Da'esh, the Islamic State. What difference does it make?

  • MAN:

    Hard situation in Syria, no power, no water, no Internet, no any help for us. We can't stay in Syria. The — Bashar al-Assad attack us every day, morning, every time, our baby so afraid of light and sound.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    Of the bombs, of the sounds?

  • MAN:

    Of bombs and of the guns every day, every day. So we left.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    Da'esh, beheadings. They cut off hands for any reason. They will always find an excuse to kill any human being. They have no problem in killing even children. Young children have been slaughtered, flogged, even women. Da'esh has no mercy at all. They have nothing to do with religion or Islam or humanity.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    It's the sleep of total exhaustion, born of weeks on the road and years of war, dreaming, maybe, of the way life used to be, before the bombs and the men in black masks, when you could live and work and bring up your children in Syria, dreaming of the way life could yet be if Germany makes good on its promise or Austria lets them in.

    Not every traveler is from Syria. Vida's here with her brother. She presented a TV sports program back home in Afghanistan, until the death threats from those who hate women became too much.

  • WOMAN:

    One day, I saw very, very bad things. They came and fight, fight. Even, they want to kill me with knife.

  • MAN:

    I'm just on a transit. That's why I'm on this train.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    The Nigerians lost their jobs as cleaners in Istanbul, so they're moving on. Economic migrants, that's what they will be called, bottom of the hierarchy of desperation.

    Refugees, migrants, European politicians call them a burden. But maybe there's another way to look at it.

    Why do you think Germany should agree to let you come in?

  • MAN:

    Because — I don't know — because they have a lot of old people, and maybe they need young people, I think.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    We're there, but not quite, still another mile or so walk to the border. It's hot, but they keep going, even the kids,

  • MAN:

    Idlib.

  • LINDSEY HILSUM:

    Idlib, Idlib.

    The border is somewhere in the field. No one knows when they have crossed it. But on the other side of the hill, the Serbian police are waiting. They're polite and welcoming; 23,000 people have entered Serbia this way in the last two weeks, 90,000 this year.

    But this is just a way station. There's a long road ahead through Hungary, where the welcome is not so warm. It's the summer of mass migration. Those whom geography condemned to war have come to Europe, as European politicians have turned away.

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