““we were not allowed to see anything because the heads were down to the ground” ”

  • Date and time: May 8, 2021 23:30
  • Location: Gevgelija, North Macedonia
  • Coordinates: 41.12826086103, 22.516944108346
  • Pushback from: North Macedonia
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 7 person(s), age: 22 , from: Morocco
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: no violence used
  • Police involved: one police officer in civilian clothes, at least five police officers in black uniforms, one person in military clothes, one blue police van, one white police van, one blue or black police van
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: No
  • Reported by: Anonymous Partner

Original Report

The respondent is a 22-year-old man from Morocco. On the 8th of May 2021, the respondent traveled from Turkey to North Macedonia in a truck, along with seven other people on the move. All of them were from Morocco, amongst them was a pregnant woman together with her husband.

At around 11:00 a.m., the vehicle stopped in the mountains close to the Albanian border. When the group exited the truck, they found themselves in what the respondent described as a depot.

From there, the respondent and his group saw a village in a valley below and decided to walk down. In the village, they were approached by a man in civilian clothes. The man said he was a police officer and that they had to stop. He made a phone call and shortly after two more police officers arrived. According to the respondent, they were wearing black uniforms with ‘police’ written in yellow on their chests. The police officers loaded the group of seven into a blue police van with police insignia on the side. They drove for approximately 10 minutes when they stopped at a police station in the village Ohrid. At the police station, they were asked some questions about their nationality and names. The respondent described the police officers as being polite, they gave them some food. According to the respondent,

“they [the group of people-on-the-move] didn’t ask for asylum because the police officers won’t let them even talk to much or something“

After about one hour, a white van came and the police officers brought them to what the respondent described as a small camp close to the border with Greece. The drive lasted for approximately three and a half hours.

At the camp, the group was told to line up. One officer would take fingerprints and pictures and write down their personal information. A female translator was present. The respondent assumed that she was of Tunisian origin. He described her as having been very helpful. She also helped them get their phones back when the officers checked them. There was one man in an army uniform present, the others were wearing black uniforms with ‘police’ written on them. When asked whether the respondent asked for asylum, he replied:

“They didn’t want to give us asylum.”

This procedure of collecting personal information, taking pictures, and fingerprints took approximately one hour. Then, a van arrived and the whole group of people-on-the-move was told to get in. The respondent had trouble identifying the colour of the van as he was told to keep his head down.

“Maybe like black and blue, because we were not allowed to see anything because the heads were down to the ground.”

After driving for around 50 minutes, they stopped at the North Macedonian-Greek border close to the Greek village Idomeni. There, three officers in black uniforms were already waiting. By then it was almost 12 at night.

There was a metal gate in the border fence and the officers told them to go through it into Greek territory. On the other side of the fence, the respondent and the group tried to see where they were and where they should go on a map, but the officers told them again that they should leave the area. The group then followed the railways close to the gate and came to Thessaloniki.

The respondent stated that he did not experience physical violence during the pushback.