“They were telling us: go back home, go back to your country.”

  • Date and time: December 16, 2021 00:00
  • Location: near Gevgelija, North Macedonia
  • Coordinates: 41.128387046913, 22.518621133982
  • Pushback from: North Macedonia
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 18 person(s), age: 18-45 years old , from: Afghanistan, Morocco, unknown
  • Minors involved? No
  • Violence used: no violence used
  • Police involved: 4 officers (dark blue uniforms), 1 officer (civilian clothes, carrying a gun), 1 officer (black uniform, carrying a gun)
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Mobile Info Team

Original Report

The respondent is a 25-year-old man from Morocco. On December 16, 2021, he was pushed back twice, from Serbia to Greece and from North Macedonia to Greece. 

Due to limited time to discuss both pushbacks with the respondent, this report focuses on the most recent pushback, from North Macedonia to Greece. During both pushbacks, the respondent was together with 9 other Moroccan men who were all pushed back twice, the youngest 24 and the oldest 34. 

The respondent explained that one or two hours after being pushed back for the first time, from Serbia to Greece on December 16 at approximately 2 am, he crossed the border back into North Macedonia. The respondent explained that he entered North Macedonia by jumping the fence with the other 9 group members. His phone was stolen during the first pushback and a group member was using a map on his phone. For this reason, the respondent is not sure exactly where they entered. 

After crossing the border into North Macedonia, the group walked approximately 40 kilometers before being apprehended on a road by four officers in a blue van with white letters on it in a language the respondent did not understand. The officers wore dark blue uniforms. The respondent explained that he could not see if there were insignia on the uniforms because it was dark. 

“It was dark, we couldn’t really notice anything.”

The officers told the group to stop from their car window. The respondent explained that all group members stopped and were placed in the back of the van. He describes the back of the van like a small cell, with a metal bench they sat on. They were then driven to a camp near the border in about 10 minutes.

“We were just the 10 of us in the back of the van. It was very tight, very small for us.” 

The respondent explained that the officers did not actually speak to them when they apprehended the group, but instead took them straight to the camp. The respondent describes the camp as an army place with caravans, with a fence and surrounded by the forest. There was a sign with the Macedonian flag on it – the respondent describes a sun, with yellow and red as well as the flag of the European Union, with blue and stars.

Upon arrival at the camp, the personal information, fingerprints, and photos of the group members were taken and the group was placed in a room. The respondent described that group members asked for food, water and a toilet, but received nothing.

“They didn’t allow us to use the toilet and didn’t provide any food. They treated us like animals.” 

“They told us to sleep, but after half an hour they came to us and started telling us: ‘Get up, get up, get up’.” 

The respondent explained that two officers entered the room. They were different from the officers who apprehended them – one of them wearing civilian clothes and the other wearing a black uniform, both with guns. The respondent explained that he does not know if there were insignia on the uniform because he and the group members were afraid to look at them. He also explained that outside the room there were officers wearing army clothes. 

“They don’t like it when you look at them. They were telling us: ‘go back home, go back to your country’.”

The respondent explained the officers asked one of the group members in the room where he wanted to go. The group member replied that he wanted to go to Serbia. The officers then told the group that they would take them to Serbia. But the officers lied, the respondent explained, and took them to Greece instead of Serbia. 

All group members were then placed in the same van that they were taken to the camp in. In the van were 6 other people from Afghanistan and two people of whom the respondent does not know where they come from. In about an hour’s drive, they were taken straight to the gate by the same two officers who entered the room. The officer in the black uniform was driving the car. The respondent explained that they were driving on the highway, but that they could not see anything outside. A group member was using his phone and so they knew they had driven back to Greece. 

The respondent explained that when they arrived at the border, the officers opened the door in the fence that was close to a train wreck and told them to go back to Greece. The respondent stated that the officers used verbal violence. 

“They were telling us: ‘go back home, get out’.”

After the pushback, the officers did not leave the premises and kept an eye on the group of people from behind the fence. 

“They were there and watching us.”

The respondent explained that the group broke up after being pushed back. The respondent left the border area alone. 

Based on the respondent’s description, it is very likely that the group was pushed back to Greece near Gevgelija.

At no point did the respondent express his willingness to apply for asylum.