The respondent, a 36-year-old man from Tunisia, has been pushed back multiple times from North Macedonia to Greece. A testimony of his fifth pushback, which took place on the 25th of March 2022, can be found here. Since his fifth pushback, the respondent has been pushed back twice more on two consecutive days, the 26th and 27th of June 2022. This report details his sixth pushback, which took place on the 26th of June 2022.
On the 26th of June 2022 at approximately 7 – 7.30 AM, the respondent and his transit group consisting of two men from Morocco aged 26 and 30, were reportedly apprehended by four plain-clothed officers, three male and one female at a bus station in Gevgelija. According to the respondent, there was no marked vehicle present at the bus station.
The plain-clothed officers ordered the transit group to sit on the floor of the bus station, which the respondent asserted was very busy, for approximately 30 mins. Two men described as wearing dark blue uniforms with the North Macedonian flag then arrived in a blue Mercedes van and reportedly put cable ties around the transit group’s wrists before putting them in the back of the van. According to the respondent, there were already 15 men from Afghanistan between the ages of 20-30 in the van so it was “very crowded”. He was unable to his surroundings from the van but said they drove for approximately one hour and 15 mins until they arrived at what he referred to as a ‘camp’.
When asked to describe the ‘camp’, the respondent said there were many plastic tents with COVID-19 signs around and recalled seeing one which had a small flag of the European Union. At this site were reportedly 9 officers wearing blue uniforms with the North Macedonian flag. He said there were separate rooms for the “many families” there but could not recall how many people were detained. The respondent explained that there were four additional officers, which he believed to be Frontex officers, as they were wearing black uniforms with Frontex insignia on the armband. He asserted that two of the suspected Frontex officers were Croatian and the other two German, adding that he spoke with one German-speaking officer who admitted that they were Frontex officers. The respondent mentioned that the Croatian and German flags were on the suspected Frontex officer’s uniforms and they had an unmarked black Range Rover, which had a Croatian number plate. Two women were also present, described as wearing dark green camouflage uniforms, but did not interact with the people apprehended.
The respondent said he was taken into a tent, where there was a man dressed in the North Macedonian uniform and a Palestinian woman dressed in black jeans, who was a translator. Here, he had to provide personal information such as name, nationality and age, in addition to fingerprints and had his photo taken. He said his mobile phone was confiscated but he was not body searched. According to the respondent, he was told that he had to undertake the identification procedures so the authorities can determine who he is and after he will be transported to the North Macedonian-Greek border with others detained so they can go back to Greece. He said he did not ask for asylum because he heard an officer say:
“you make it next time to Skopje you have the right to apply for asylum but if you give your fingerprints in Gevgelija then you don’t have the right to apply for asylum at all in Macedonia, North Macedonia.”
When the respondent was apprehended in March 2022, he had his fingerprints taken and expressed that he wanted to claim asylum but was denied on the basis that he was alone and not traveling with a family.
According to the respondent, he and the other members of the transit group spent less than half an hour at the site. He said the vehicle in which they were transported from the bus station to the ‘camp’ was used to take them to the border, which was just a 5 min drive away. He recalled that two uniformed officers drove them to the border, but not the same ones which transported the apprehended people to the ‘camp’. The Afghani men were with the transit group in the van, whereby they were taken to a gate at the border beside a fence. He said the back door of the van was opened, and each person apprehended exited the vehicle and crossed the fence into Greece under the supervision of the Macedonian authorities, who reportedly said “be careful, don’t come back”. The respondent said that he went to a shop in a village in Greece but not could recall the name.