The respondent is a 24-year-old man from Morocco. On Thursday, 11th February 2021, at approximately 7:30 p.m. he crossed the border from Greece to Macedonia with a group of five people near Evzoni. His group consisted of one Tunisian, one Algerian and two other Moroccan adult men.
From the border, they walked, mainly through the woods, for four hours, when four Macedonian police officers apprehended them with one blue and one white police van. Three officers were wearing camouflage military clothes, while the fourth was wearing a dark blue police uniform. Reportedly, the place of apprehension was here.
The group was made to enter the back of the blue van, which resembled a cell. It was barred to the front, had no windows and had two metal chairs inside. In a 15-minute-drive they were brought to a place that the respondent believed to be a “refugee camp”. From the driving distances and the locations of apprehension and pushback, one can assume that this camp was either in or near Gevgelija.
In this camp, their fingerprints were taken and a translator came to ask for their personal information. One member of the group was found to have tried to make it to North Macedonia before and was handcuffed and separated from the group. His whereabouts are unknown.
The respondent was warned by the translator not to try again to cross into North Macedonia: “This is your first time, so they gonna release you but if you come here again, probably they will hit you and put you in detention.”
After approximately 35 minutes, the respondent’s group was again made to enter the same blue police van. There was one officer driving the van and another six officers, following in a separate police car. After 15 minutes they arrived at the border close to the Greek village of Idomeni, where they were told to walk back into Greece. The respondent recalled, that they crossed the border at approximately 2:00 a.m. on Friday, 12th February 2020.
The function of this particular border gate as quasi-official pushback site has been discussed already in the monthly report of December 2020 and more recent reports show that it is still used to carry out pushbacks on a regular basis.
From the Greek side, the group walked back to Thessaloniki for two days. As they were not provided with water or food, they had to get water from lakes or from the snow.
At no point did the respondent or any member of his group ask for asylum.