The respondent is a 34-year-old man from Tunisia who was pushed back two times from North Macedonia to Greece on the 23rd of April 2022 together with two other Tunisian men of 26 and 27 years old. This report refers to the first pushback. The second pushback happened later that day.
The respondent arrived together with two other group members in North Macedonia on the 23rd of April around 2 AM. They waited until around 6 AM before they travelled to the bus station in Gevgelija with the intention to take a bus to Skopje. Before they reached the bus station, however, they were reportedly apprehended by two officers.
The officers arrived in a car and reportedly asked the transit group for their documents. When they mentioned that they did not have documents, the officers reportedly brought them to a police station (either the Border Police Station, or the Gevgelija Police Station). The respondent explained that they did not stay long at the police station and supposedly waited for other officers to arrive who would bring them to a ‘camp’. According to the respondent, the police officers said that they would give them “to the military”. However, he was not sure if the officers who picked them up were in fact military. In addition, the respondent could not remember what the uniforms of the officers who apprehended him looked like. He did remember having seen a dark blue insignia which he said was of the North Macedonian police.
According to the respondent, a different car came to the police station and brought the transit group to a ‘camp’ that seemed to be close to the police station. It is unclear how many officers were with the transit group in the vehicle. The respondent estimated that the events, from the moment of apprehension to the arrival at the camp, took about an hour. From the police station to the ‘camp’ it “didn’t take long, only a few minutes”, according to the respondent. Inside the camp, the respondent described that there were white containers. Based on the descriptions of the camp and the travel time, it is probable that the ‘camp’ the transit group was brought to is the Vinojug Temporary Transit Centre, which was mentioned in BVMN’s February 2022 Monthly Report and seems to be a common place people-on-the-move are taken to before they are pushed back to Greece.
“I asked for asylum, they don’t care. They said, ‘Go to Greece, Greece is in Europe, this is where you ask for asylum, not here in Macedonia’.”
At the ‘camp’, the respondent explained that they had to give their personal information which included their first and last name, country of origin, and age. Additionally, their fingerprints were taken. They were reportedly not provided with a translator, nor with any food or water. The respondent expressed to the officers that he wanted to seek asylum, which he said was denied. He also asked to meet with the social worker and/or the lawyer that he said he knew were often present at the ‘camp’ upon which the officer reportedly laughed and said, “it’s not your lucky day, they are off, holiday”. The particular weekend that the pushback took place was during the Orthodox Easter weekend, which might also be the holiday the officer was referring to.
After having been at the ‘camp’ for around half an hour, the respondent explained they were put back in a car and brought to the Greek-Macedonian border. The place where they were pushed back was reportedly close to the ‘camp’, the respondent explained that “across the border you can see the camp”. They were reportedly pushed back around 6 AM to Greece.