On the 8th of September 2020, the respondents, one 27-year-old man and one 23-year-old man from Algeria, were apprehended near the train station of a small village in N. Macedonia, North of Gevgelija, on a road approximately 35 kilometres from the Greek-Macedonian border. The respondents could not recall the name of the village, however, one identified the location of their apprehension on a map (pictured below):
They were part of a group of four Algerians, no minors were involved. On their journey, one respondent claimed to have seen five green Land Rovers with German registration plates parked next to a concealed building resembling a police station in the woods. This observation was made two days before the pushback occurred.
In the late evening of 8th September, approximately between 21:30 and 01:00 the following day, the interviewees saw two policemen approach them by car, reportedly a white Skoda with a North Macedonian registration plate. After attempting to escape by crossing a nearby river, the group was caught by the officers. The officers called them over, stating they would not be harmed. But when closer, the police began seized and attacked the men.
“[We] fell down in the river and they told [us]: you have to come here, we won’t beat you […]. But when they caught [us], they beat [us] a lot”
The four men were pushed to the ground and bound together in pairs with plastic zip ties on their wrists, before being beaten with wooden and metal sticks, for a couple of minutes. At least one of them was kicked in the chest by a policeman. Both interviewees were left with extensive bruising and swelling on their arms, legs, and torsos.
Before the assault, the respondents expressed their intention to apply for asylum to the police. Reportedly, one policeman promised to abide by this request, telling the group they would be brought to a camp and receive official transit papers.
“[They said] We will bring you to a camp here, you will stay two days and they will let you free and you can do what you want. […] They were lying to us”
The group was made to sit and wait on the ground for 45 minutes and then a further four policemen arrived, all of whom were local Macedonian police These new officers proceeded to beat the group again.
The four Algerians were then put inside a Mercedes van. After a drive of 30 to 45 minutes, the police brought the men back to the Greek border. They were forced out of the van and beaten with batons and metal sticks for a third time, before being pushed through a gated in the border fence close to Gevgelija. On the Greek side, the group was forced to sleep a night in the open. The respondents had wet clothing from the capture by the river and said that they suffered in the cold of the night. The following day, the four men took a train south to Thessaloniki.