The primary respondent for this testimony was a 47-year-old man from Afghanistan, traveling in a group of approximately 20 people, including two families with small children. During their transit attempt through North Macedonia, the group was initially were apprehended on August 14th around midnight by Macedonian authorities in a village close by the Greek border on August 14, 2020. According to the respondent, the police officers approached the group and became physically violent. The officers struck various group-members with their batons. Others were pepper-sprayed, including the women and children. After this, the officers loaded the group into a van and left them there without any air conditioning, jammed, soaking in sweat for around two hours, while going about to catch more transit groups. In the end, they squashed around 40 people in a van for fit for ten persons.
“Even the Talibans of Afghanistan treat people better than these people. They don’t care about human rights or anything,” recalled the respondent.
After this time spent waiting, the van brought the group to the bank of the Vardar river, where the officers took their shoes, bags, and extra clothes and threw everything into the river. The officers also took their mobile phones and money, stating that it was to prevent them from crossing the border into North Macedonia again right away. According to the respondent, the group was beaten brutally with metal electroshock batons and some people were thrown into the river by the police. One person was thrown in despite crying and begging not to be thrown in.
Reportedly, Frontex officers were present during this operation. The respondent described seeing foreign officers wearing uniforms with the European Union flags on their shoulders, described by our interlocutor as the “European Union police were observing the violence.”
After the beating at the riverside, the people were taken to a police station nearby, where the police officers took their photographs, which took between 30 and 60 minutes. The respondent described that if the officers realized that a person had been apprehended in North Macedonia previously, they were the victim of further physical violence. None of the group-members were given a chance to ask for asylum during this time. They were not given any food or water, and had no access to toilets. In the station, they had to squat with their hands joint behind their neck and their heads down. If someone asked to go to the toilet, the police kicked them.
After this, the group-members were taken to the border by van. The policemen opened the gate in the fence, and started pushing people through by beating them with electroshock batons. On the Greek side, the Greek authorities arrived together with Frontex officers, and gathered the people. According to the respondent, some of the group-members were victim to further physical violence from the Greek authorities, via electroshock batons. He then described that the officers took the group to a nearby police station. Our 47 year-old interviewee still had bruises on his arm from the beating after 4 days.
At the police station, if the people had money with them, they took 6 euro from them for train tickets. Those who did not have money were kept at the police station for an unknown amount of time. Others, including our interviewee, were put in a large police bus and brought to the train station in Polykastro, where they were given train tickets and put on a train to Thessaloniki.