“"THEY PUT HIS HANDS BEHIND HIS BACK WITH THE HANDCUFFS, PUT HIM ON THE FLOOR AND SAT ON HIM" ”

  • Date and time: October 22, 2021 22:00
  • Location: Gevgelija, North Macedonian
  • Coordinates: 41.128308324348, 22.516964126692
  • Pushback from: North Macedonia
  • Pushback to: Greece
  • Demographics: 5 person(s), age: 22 , from: Afghanistan, Morocco
  • Minors involved? Unknown
  • Violence used: kicking, pushing people to the ground
  • Police involved: 8 North Macedonian police officers, 3 police vans
  • Taken to a police station?: yes
  • Treatment at police station or other place of detention: fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken, denial of access to toilets, denial of food/water
  • Was the intention to ask for asylum expressed?: Yes
  • Reported by: Anonymous

Original Report

The respondent is a 22-year-old man from Morocco. He was pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece on the 22nd of October 2021. 

After four days of walking, the respondent found himself approximately 40 kilometres away from the Greek border, close to the North Macedonian town of Prilep. There he met a shepherd and asked him to charge his phone. He agreed and went inside the house, but instead of charging the phone, he called the police. 

Shortly after, two vans with police insignia arrived at the scene, carrying four North Macedonian officers. They were all wearing yellow jackets, but civil shirts underneath. When the respondent saw the police vans approach, he tried to run away but the officers followed and apprehended him. One officer pushed the respondent to the ground and was sitting on his back to handcuff him. They also kicked him in his thighs when he was lying on the ground. The respondent recalled lying on the floor with his hands tied behind his back for 2 hours in the sun.  

Eventually, another van came with a cell in the back. The officers made the respondent enter it and drove him to the police station of Prilep around 30 minutes away. When they arrived at the police station, they took off his handcuffs and told him to sit on a chair in front of the police station. He needed to wait there for 4 hours without any access to food, water, or a toilet. Even when it started to rain, they ordered him to not move or change his place. During this time, one officer asked the respondent in English for his personal information. 

At around 4 p.m. a brown van arrived with 1 officer who was wearing a blue uniform with stars on the shoulders. He loaded him into the back of the van which had no seats, so he needed to sit on the floor. They drove for around one hour to a place where another officer wearing the same uniform was waiting together with four Afghan young men. The respondent stated that they looked like teenagers, between 16 and 18 years old. From this place, they drove another hour to get to a small camp inside the woods. Cross-checking the descriptions of the respondent with precious reports, he was most likely around the city of Gevgelija. The camp was empty except for one officer with dark blue pants and a light blue shirt. When the respondent asked for food and water, he was told he would have to pay for it. However, no one in the respondent’s group had money on him.

The respondent and the 4 Afghan persons waited for one hour. Then the officers took their personal information, fingerprints, and pictures of their faces.  After this, they loaded the group into the van and drove them for approximately 40 minutes to the border. They arrived there at 10:00 p.m. At the border fence, the officers opened a gate and pushed them back to the Greek side. As the BVMN Balkan Region Report from December 2020 analysed, this gate is a key location for pushbacks from North Macedonian to Greece. 

On the Greek side, they walked for half an hour, following train tracks until they found a train taking them back to Thessaloniki. 

The respondent several times expressed his wish to apply for asylum in North Macedonia but his request was always declined with just the word “No”.