The respondent is a 26-year-old man from Tunisia who was pushed back from North Macedonian to Greece on the 29th of November at around 5 a.m.
Before this pushback, he already been pushed back four times, three times from Greece to Turkey and once from Bulgaria to Turkey.
The respondent left Thessaloniki on the 24th of November together with a group of 6 other people. The group members were from 21-30 years old and all men. 2 were from Tunisia and 5 were from Morocco. They went to Softex (a former camp in an industrial area outside of Thessaloniki) by bus and started walking from there following the train tracks in the direction of North Macedonia. After three days of walking, they arrived at a squatted building next to the border where they decided to stay for a night.
On the next day, the 27th at 10 in the morning, a blue van arrived at the building. There were three police officers inside, two male and one female who were wearing dark blue uniforms. The police officers entered the building and one officer started beating them with a baton. “They started beating us up and beat me first”, the respondent said, and that the beating continued until they got outside of the building.
“I was trying to take my stuff, but they were beating me until we got out [of the squat]. So I did not manage to take everything”.
Outside of the building, the officers forced the transit group into the van. There was already one person inside who had been apprehended before. The officers drove the respondent, the group and the additional person for 40 km, away from the border, before releasing them and telling them to go back to Thessaloniki.
When the police took off, the group of eight turned around and went back to the border. They crossed the border to North Macedonian on the 28th of November through a gate identified as a location for pushbacks from North Macedonian as shown in past reports.
After they had crossed the border, they walked for three hours. At around 5 a.m, the respondent spotted a blue van with police insignia. Inside this van were four male officers who were wearing the North Macedonian uniform. The respondent said that six of his companions ran away when they saw them arriving. The respondent said, “I [the respondent] was so tired I could not run, and one of the others was sick”.
The officers apprehended the respondent and the other man and told them to lay face-down on the ground. The officers searched for the rest of the group but could not find them. Two of the police officers made the respondent and his companion enter the van. The other two officers stayed and kept on looking for the rest of the group members.
They drove 20 minutes to get to a camp. No other people were present, except a person who functioned as a translator. At this place, the officers took their [the transit groups] fingerprints, pictures and asked them for their personal information. At no point was the transit group provided with food, water or given access to the toilet.
“They did not give us a chance to apply for asylum”.
The whole procedure took 15 minutes. Afterward, they got in the van again and the two officers drove them approximately 10 minutes to the Greek border. At this point, the officers became verbally violent against them, “They were insulting my Moroccan friend and telling him you are a criminal”.
At the border, the officers told them to go back to Greece and pushed them through a gate to the Greek side.
Back in Greece, they walked to Polykastro from where they got back to Thessaloniki by bus.