The respondent is a 35-year-old Tunisian man. On the 15th January 2021, at approximately 4:00 p.m. he was crossing the Greek-North Macedonian border with five other Arabic-speaking men near the Evzoni border station. The group had been walking along a small road next to the A1/E75 highway for an hour, when they were reportedly apprehended by North Macedonian police.
According to the respondent, the group was apprehended on this road within sight of a small town. Given his description, this was presumably Gevgelija.
The respondent described how four officers approached in two vehicles, one police patrol car and a grey van with barred windows on the back. They wore black uniforms and balaclavas. One of the officers exited the van and is reported to have immediately started beating the members of the group with a baton, while shouting at them aggressively. The group was then made to enter the van and was brought back to the border. This drive reportedly took 30 minutes.
They were taken to a border gate close to the Greek village of Idomeni. Pushbacks from North Macedonia to Greece have been repeatedly carried out at this gate, as several BVMN-reports show. The latest such incident was reported in December 2020. The status of this gate as a quasi official location for pushbacks has been discussed in the December monthly report.
“He was beating them like something like animals”
At this border gate, the same four officers reportedly beat the group again with metal batons. The respondent sustained several bruises all over his body from this assault.
Those on his leg were still visible ten days later when the interview was conducted.
After this episode, the group was reportedly pushed back to Greece and walked back to Thessaloniki. As the respondent recalled, this journey was particularly arduous due to the injuries on his legs.