The respondent, a 23-year-old man from Morocco, described that he had been pushed back to Greece from Albania four times and from North Macedonia 3 times.
The last time he was pushed back from Albania, he described that the police had apprehended him and his small group of travellers in mid-July, 2020, on the way to the city of Korçë, 7 kilometres away from the Greek border. According to the respondent, the officers told him that he would have a chance to apply for asylum in Albania. The Albanian police did not use any violence against them, but gave them water and food. The officers took him and his group to a nearby police station, where they took their fingerprints. After this, however, the officers then led the group back inside police vehicles and drove them to the Greek border.
Once they arrived to the border, they were led out of the vans and a pushback procedure began to play out. The respondent described that at the border, foreign officers in black clothes with visible EU flags on their shoulders (Frontex), and officers in army-green clothes with flags of the Czech Republic and Germany on their shoulders were present. The latter were hitting them as they pushed them across the border.
“They treated us like animals,” the interviewee said.
As this was happening, the respondent recalled that the Albanian officers told them to never think about coming back to Albania, and pushed them back to Greece.
According to the respondent, his last experience of being pushed back from North Macedonia in mid-August was worse. The Macedonian authorities, together with what were described as foreign officers, apprehended him with 12 other people from Morocco and Syria in the municipality of Gevgelija, near the railroad that crosses the border between Greece and North Macedonia. Upon their initial approach of the group, the authorities were violent and beat the group with large tree branches on the spot. At some point 9 people escaped and 4 were pushed back.
“They don’t care where they hit you. They hit you in your eyes, everywhere. They don’t care how, maybe it’s dangerous…” the interviewee told us.
According to the respondent, the N. Macedonian police gave the people to foreign officers who continued beating them. The group was placed inside a small blue police bus and driven to the border.
At the border, the officers continued with the violence. The officers were wearing black uniforms with clearly visible Czech flags on their shoulders, and they had their faces covered with balaclavas. The respondent was under the impression that these might be Frontex officers.
According to the respondent, there were also four persons in plain clothes – shorts and t-shirts – and faces covered with masks, who were very tall and muscular. They zip-tied people’s hands, pushed them on the ground, and kicked them. They also used heavy tree branches to beat them. The respondent described that he was lucky, as he was wearing a large backpack, so they did not hit his back. But the other persons were heavily beaten and were crying from pain. According to our interlocutor, the foreign officers took photos and videos of the group as the carried out this violence.
After the officers pushed them across the border, our interlocutor jumped on a train going back to Thessaloniki and returned.