Soup kitchen refugees dream of Europe

Story highlights

  • Macedonia is allowing specific refugees to cross the border from Greece
  • Entry opens the road to European countries who may be willing to offer asylum
  • But many refugees or migrants are now stuck at the border

Idomeni,Greece (CNN)A barbed wire fence runs through the fields and hills that mark the border between Greece and Macedonia. Just outside the Greek village of Idomeni is a metal gate -- the designated entry point for refugees who want to cross into Macedonia.

But not everyone can go. Refugees from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan are ushered past the ramshackle collection of tents in the Greek field nearby, past the railroad track manned by Greek riot police and, after a brief wait, through the metal gate into Macedonia.
    For everyone else, the door is closed.
    Whether they are refugees or economic migrants there is no freedom of movement, and geography means the easiest route to a country willing to accept them is via Macedonia.
    Last week, Macedonia took the decision to allow in only a select group of refugees. Riots broke out as hundreds of mostly Moroccans, Iranians and Pakistanis voiced their frustration at being stranded on the Greek side, briefly closing the border.
    Over the weekend, tempers cooled and the border has reopened. On Monday, a group of Iranian families sat on the railroad tracks in protest chanting "Open the Doors."
    As they chanted, a fresh group of Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrived and carefully walked past them to the border crossing. Greek border police stood by unmoved.
    A group of young Moroccans huddled around a fire discussed their options. Among the men, a feeling that the only reason they weren't being allowed in was bad timing.
    Volunteers from all over the world are helping refugees at the tense border crossing.
    migrants blocked at macedonian border shubert pkg_00000511

      JUST WATCHED

      Volunteers from all over the world are helping refugees at the tense border crossing.

    MUST WATCH

    Volunteers from all over the world are helping refugees at the tense border crossing. 02:29
    One of them, Farid -- who wanted to be identified only by his first name -- said: "Why are they only letting Syrians in? Because Daesh [ISIS] exists only there? And not in Morocco? After the terror attacks in Paris, that is why. That is why they closed the border now."
    Another said he would wait a few more days for the gates to open. If they didn't, he planned to return home to Morocco.
    And a third, Muhammed, insisted there would be another way to Europe. "We want to work. We are willing and looking to work. I just want a better life. To make some money. I won't go back until I do that."
    The UNHCR and Medecins Sans Frontieres have set up tents at Idomeni to process refugee applications and to try to maintain the health of those traveling.
    Greek authorities have offered free buses and ferry rides, trying to convince asylum seekers to travel to Athens to process their asylum applications in refugee shelters there.
    Some have accepted the offer but many refuse, stubbornly hoping the doors will open or insisting that they will find another way in.
    There are also smaller volunteer organizations. A collective called No Borders has pitched up a roving soup kitchen inside an abandoned railway car in Idomeni. Organized on social media, they serve as many as 2,000 hot meals a day, delivering soup and bread to those refugees cleared to cross as well as to those left behind.
    The No Borders kitchen has previously popped up in Hungary and Slovenia.
    Richard Macallister, from England, says he arrived last week. "I feel like I can't turn my back on a humanitarian crisis," he says as volunteers chop cabbage and carrots beside him. "I feel like we should open the borders. Because these people deserve the right they were born with. They deserve the right to move freely and to find a better life whether [they are] economic migrant or asylum seeker."
    Greece: Migrants stranded in the cold
    Greece: Migrants stranded in the cold

      JUST WATCHED

      Greece: Migrants stranded in the cold

    MUST WATCH

    Greece: Migrants stranded in the cold 02:22
    Anyone can turn up to help at the No Borders kitchen and many of those cooking are asylum seekers themselves, looking for something to do while they wait.
    Yassin, a young Moroccan who speaks English, French and Arabic, has taken it upon himself to organize the crowds that come for the evening meal.
    "Nobody back home knows I'm here. But I want to come and work in Europe just like everyone else. Maybe Germany?" he said.
    The night we are filming, we see him joking with asylum seekers from Somalia and Sudan as they wait in line for soup. Someone starts a sing-a-long to keep spirits up as night falls and the temperature starts to dip below zero.
    When the steaming soup is finally served in plastic cups, it's a welcome relief from the cold. Women and children are served first then the long line of men. By 10p.m., the soup is finished.
    The No Borders kitchen closes up and turns into a camp as Yassin and others roll out sleeping bags inside the railway car for yet another night of hoping that tomorrow the borders may open.