The respondent in question (aged 24 and from Algeria) was in Preševo camp (SRB) when, on 17th April 2020, he was approached by some employees who worked in the camp. These employees asked the respondent to give them his camp I.D. card because, they told the respondent, he would be transported to another camp. The camp’s “boss” called the police whilst he, and others, were rounded up.
Six officers arrived in two blue police vans. At around 16:00 supervised by two of the officers, the respondent was placed in the back of a van with five other men (from Morocco and Tunisia, aged between 20-28 years old). The respondent states that he felt the employees of the camp and the officers worked in conjunction to trick the respondent because they were not driven to another camp, as promised, but instead taken to the Serbia-N. Macedonia border.
“Change camp and then after no change camp”
The respondent asserted that all day long people had been collected from the camp and taken away, in groups of between five and seven people (see another report from that day taken by BVMN confirming this). The groups that the respondent witnessed being taken from Preševo camp (SRB) were all composed of men in their twenties and from many different countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia. He believed these groups were also taken to the Serbia-N. Macedonia border and pushed-back and felt the reason the authorities lied to the various groups was:
“because they don’t want to make [us] afraid and run away”
They arrived at the border at around 19:00 and were met by two additional police officers and four officers wearing military attire, as well as two unmuzzled dogs. All the officers at the border were wearing masks, although the respondent insisted they were not the type of surgical masks commonly seen since the outbreak of COVID-19, but that they were “commando” and “professional”, implying they belonged to police or military uniform.
The respondent recalls being unable to tell the gender of any of the officers at the border because their faces were completely hidden by the masks. The officers at the border told the transit group “this is the border”, then proceeded to beat them with batons, to kick them, punch them, “everything”. The officers encouraged the dogs to attack the group and, as a result, the respondent was bitten on his leg multiple times. Other members of the transit group were also bitten by the dogs and the respondent said he felt the officers shouted insults at them in Serbian, understanding that they were saying something negative about his mother. The respondent said of the officers:
“they are dangerous”
After the beating the officers told the transit group “go” and then they crossed the border somewhere between Miratovac (SRB) and Lojane (MKD). On the 26th April 2020, members were also subject to a push-back from North Macedonia to Greece (recorded in this report).