In the early hours of November 5th 2022, the respondent, a 24 year-old Algerian man, traveling with two other Syrian men between the ages of 26 and 37, was pushed back from Gevgelija, North Macedonia to Greece. It was the respondent’s fourth pushback.
The respondent and his transit group crossed the border into North Macedonia at around eight o’clock in the evening on November 5th. After walking for about three hours it started to rain so they decided to take shelter and rest in an abandoned squat on the outskirts of Gevgelija. At about 1 o’clock in the morning, the group was abruptly woken up by the arrival of two men dressed in blue uniforms, recalled the respondent. The uniformed men reportedly asked the transit group where they were from in English and then proceeded to lead them out of the building and walk them for about five minutes until they reached a parked black vehicle. During this time the transit group had their hands tied with cable ties, and the respondent recalled the uniformed men laughing “the whole time”.
Moments later another vehicle arrived at the apprehension point carrying four more men dressed in the same blue uniforms, explained the respondent. When asked to describe the vehicle, the respondent stated that it was a van completely made of metal on the inside, with closed windows and two metal benches in the back where the transit group were told to sit.
The respondent and his companies then had their hands untied and were loaded into the van. The respondent noted that he could not see clearly outside from inside the vehicle. The three members of the transit group were the only other people in the van, excluding the uniformed men.
When asked if he had asked for asylum at any point, the respondent said that he didn’t get the chance, “…they didn’t give us any time to, they were just like giving us orders, do this, tell me your name…”.
During the 20 minute drive to the detention site, the respondent reported that the van was driven very quickly and recklessly, and that the driver would purposefully suddenly press the brakes. Once the van arrived at what the respondent described to be a “camp”, the group was unloaded and brought inside a container. When describing the detention site, the respondent said it was close to the [Greek] border and was scattered with containers. He further recounted that there were posters of migrants in the container they were told to wait in, with the phrase “ migrants telling their stories” written across the bottom in Arabic.
There were approximately 15 men in uniform present while the transit group were kept at the detention center; some were wearing blue uniforms while others were wearing green and yellow camouflage uniforms, recalled the respondent.
There was no translator present at the scene.
As this was the respondent’s fourth time being pushed back from this “camp”, he said that some uniformed men, one in particular, recognised him and was staring at him “in a weird way”. When asked if he experienced any verbal violence during his detainment, the respondent said the uniformed men were very hostile towards him and the rest of his group.
Reportedly, the group did not receive any food or water while they were there, and they did not have their photos or fingerprints taken. They were, however, asked to give their name, nationality and age, recounted the respondent. In total, they stayed at the detention site for about 10 minutes and the respondent noted that no one else was present, apart from them and the uniformed men.
They were then loaded back into the same van that had previously transported them and driven by two uniformed men to a gate in the border. The respondent recalled that when they arrived at the border, there was already a man there wearing a blue uniform sitting in a blue four by four Nissan car with “police” written on it, waiting for them. The blue Nissan also had a blue siren light on top but it was turned off, stated the respondent.
As they were pushed back over the border into Greece, the uniformed man that had been waiting when they arrived pushed the respondent and the group with his torch, and the person at the back of the group was hit in his back with the torch and also kicked.
Once they were back in Greek territory, the transit group split up and the respondent caught a train to Thessaloniki alone.