Desperate migrants' hopes fade ahead of EU leaders' meeting

IDOMENI, Greece (Reuters) - Refugees stuck at the closed border crossing between Greece and Macedonia have little hope that a summit of EU leaders on the migrant crisis this week will lead to any improvement in their desperate plight.

Refugees and migrants grab goods donated by volunteers from a truck at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

European Union leaders will hold talks in Brussels on Thursday with Turkey’s prime minister to try to hammer out a deal to end the continent’s worst migrant crisis since World War Two.

But the deal will entail returning the migrants holed up in Greece to Turkey, including more than 10,000 people living in the tent city near Idomeni on the Macedonian border who want only to be allowed to continue their trek northwards to Germany and other wealthier west European countries.

“Nothing will change (due to the summit),” said Hussam Jackl, a 25-year-old Syrian law student who fled to Lebanon two years ago and, after working there illegally as a photographer, sold his equipment to pay a smuggler to bring him to Europe.

He has spent more than two weeks in rain-soaked Idomeni, where migrants’ shoes have taken on the same muddy brown hue of the fields and children stand knee-deep in dirt.

“If the borders remain closed I’m thinking of killing myself,” said Jackl. “I’m thinking seriously of killing myself if there is no solution.”

He held up a piece of cardboard in protest: “Dear Sun, please shine on us, it’s very cold here. They are not going to let us in but we have nowhere to go back.”

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Most of the migrants have fled conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are unable to continue their journey because Macedonia and other countries along the so-called Balkan route have shut their borders to the migrants.

“We have nothing - no money, no clean clothes, no clothes to face the bad weather,” said Mazari, 20, who traveled from Afghanistan with her three children. One of the children drowned as they crossed from Turkey to Greece in an inflatable boat.

“I’ll stay here as long as it takes to cross (into Macedonia),” she sobbed. “I have no other choice.”

Humanitarian organizations on the ground say several hundred people have moved to two petrol stations near the camp because of the bad weather, while others have returned to Athens.

Sanitary conditions have deteriorated and concern about the spread of infection has risen.

Waiting in line for clothes and shoes for his nephew, 18-year-old Ismail Sayed, who left Afghanistan in the hope of reaching Germany to study civil engineering, said all he could do was wait.

“I don’t have anything back in Afghanistan. I sold everything,” he said. “We want only one thing from European leaders: to open the borders. We want a proper future.”

Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Gareth Jones