“Serbian authorities place us 500m above the border, they beat you and bring to the border”

  • Date and time: April 17, 2020 20:30
  • Location: Lojane area, North Macedonia
  • Coordinates: 42.222292157336824, 21.53755524840302
  • Push-back from: Serbia, Kosovo
  • Push-back to: North Macedonia, Greece
  • Demographics: 20 person(s), age: 32 years old , from: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: beating (with batons/hands/other)
  • Police involved: Unknown number of officers, 2 vehicles- one of them described as "army car". Workers of the camp involved. Army officers wearing balaclavas
  • Taken to a police station?: no
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention:
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: No Name Kitchen

Original Report

The respondent left Algeria nine months prior to the report. Along with two other people, he had been taken to Precevo camp in Serbia after having been caught trying to cross into Bosnia-Herzegovina. The respondent spent 40 days at the camp, and stated that he did not cause any trouble there. 

On 17th April 2020 at 20:30, the staff of the camp (“servers”) asked those who had an expired card to come with them and get it renewed. This request was made in the dining hall whilst the respondent and others were eating.

“Your card is old, we need to change it”

“They take people randomly”

A group of 20 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Morocco and Algeria were brought to the “Commando office” or, as the respondent described it, “one room of the manager of the place”.

Asylum card of Serbia
Camp card held by one of the affected persons during their stay in Presevo.

In this room, the workers of the camp turned off the light and, at that moment, police and personnel in military style attire entered and seized the group of camp residents. The authorities were described as were wearing balaclavas covering their faces. Some where dressed in blue police uniforms, while others had trousers and tops “like army green”.

The officer used force and manhandled the group of 20, taking them to a “furgo” (blue van). People in the respondent’s group asked where they were going, but received no answer: they did not know where they were going. This group, including the respondent, did not bring any personal belongings with them as they did not know what was happening. 

“They treat us like animals, this is Guantanamo”

The group was transported in the blue van, escorted by another “army car” which drove alongside. The journey lasted only a short period and the respondent said it was approximately 8km they were driven. Once they arrived, they got out off the van “one by one” and found themselves in a forest area near the border of North Macedonia and in the region of Lojane (precise location unknown).

The officers asked the group to sit down and started to beat some of them with batons. The group fled across the border to North Macedonia, close to the village of Lojane.

“They beat us and throw us in the border”

The authorities used “sticks and guns” to threaten the transit group. Describing the pushback the respondent shared how:

“they (Serbian authorities) place us 500m above the border, they beat you and bring to the border”

The respondent spent one night sleeping hidden in North Macedonia and, the next day, 18th April 2020, crossed from MNK to Kosovo with two other people. They walked 30 km through Kosovo but were also caught by authorities there. According to the respondent, the police were “good” although they pushed them back to North Macedonia. See yellow-star-pin in the map below. 

Pushback area indicated by respondent.

Two others in the group attempted to enter a camp in the north of MNK. The individuals presented at a centre in Tabanovtse, but were denied entry by the staff allegedly because of restrictions around Coronavirus. These two persons then continued trying to cross into Serbia but were prevented by Serbian police on several occasions.

Eventually the pair traveled to Gevgelija (MNK) where they were apprehended by two police officers near the central station. The police put them inside a van and drove them to the border with Greece. At the border they pushed them back through a “door” in the fence and the two returned themselves to Thessaloniki. This occured on 28th April 2020.

The respective groups (who had entered Kosovo or stayed in MNK) where reunited in Greece, having been pushed back across the span of a week. They now remain in squatted accommodation and without the temporary regularization document (“khartia”) needed to reside in the territory.