The respondent is a 34-year-old man from Tunisia who was pushed back two times from North Macedonia to Greece on the 23rd of April 2022 together with two other Tunisian men of 26 and 27 years old. This report refers to the second pushback. The first pushback happened earlier that day.
Together with the same two group members as the first pushback, the respondent crossed the border to North Macedonia again around 12.30 PM. This time they took a bus from the bus station in Gevgelija to Skopje. The respondent did not remember how long they had been on their way, but after what he estimated might have been about an hour, the bus stopped and was subsequently checked by North Macedonian officers. He recounted that close to the point of apprehension was a gas station, and that they were surrounded by mountains, but could not recall any other details of his surroundings.
The events that took place after are very similar to what happened during the first pushback. There were two officers present who were wearing a blue uniform and a grey uniform respectively, and had arrived in a white car. These officers apprehended the transit group and waited for a second car to arrive that took them to the same ‘camp’ the transit group was brought to earlier that day. The second car looked like a “small bus”, had no windows in the back, and was blue. The respondent reported it to be much like “a prisoner car or bus” and the inside to be “dirty”.
The transportation car was driven by one officer who took the transit group to the same ‘camp’ identified during the first pushback, the officers who apprehended the group stayed behind. Based on the descriptions of the camp and the travel time, it is probable that the ‘camp’ the transit group was brought to is the Vinojug Temporary Transit Centre, which was mentioned in BVMN’s February 2022 Monthly Report and seems to be a common place people-on-the-move are taken to before they are pushed back to Greece. The respondent reported that at the camp, there were different officers present from the first time. In addition, he mentioned to have not seen many people apart from two women and a child. He supposed, “I think they are lucky, maybe the social workers there or Red Cross, that’s why. But if there is no social worker, lawyer, nobody, they don’t let no one stay in the camp”.
“I asked, ‘Are you pushing me back or if they are going to let us stay in the camp’. They say, ‘We send you back because you entered Macedonia not legally. I said, ‘Do you know that pushing back is also not legal? So how are you judging me by coming here not legal, and you’re not judging yourself doing something not legal’. They didn’t care, they said, ‘I don’t care’.”
Similar to the first time at the ‘camp’, the group’s information and fingerprints were taken again. After, the same driver that picked them up from the place of apprehension, brought the transit group to the Greek-Macedonian border. Here, they “opened the door” and told the group to “go”, which reportedly took place between 3 and 4 PM on the 23rd of April. This specific “door” is a commonly described place by people-on-the-move in their testimonies of pushbacks from North Macedonia and elaborated more on in BVMN’s December 2020 Monthly Report. It refers to a gate inside the border fence close to Idomeni, Greece that is used as a quasi-official way to push people back to Greece.
Overall, the respondent reported that during both pushbacks, the officers treated him and his group members “not bad and not good”. They did not experience any physical violence but did report to have been searched by the officers. In addition, the respondent recounted that they were threatened by the officers:
“the third time, they’d break our bones”
After the second pushback the respondent expressed that he was “too tired” and did not want to cross the border again.