The respondent is 30 years old and is from Morocco. The respondent was part of a transit group that consisted of four people, and included men between the ages of 22 and 30, from Morocco and Algeria. However, as the group was attempting to stay clear of any authorities, they split up into smaller groups and at the time of the pushback, the respondent was only with one other remember of the transit group. The transit group were pushed back twice in the same day from North Macedonia to Greece on the 11th of December at approximately one a.m. This testimony describes the events of the first pushback although both pushbacks are very similar, “they are almost like the same story so I can talk about them both.”
The respondent and his transit group reportedly passed through the village of Idomeni in Greece before crossing over into North Macedonia and walking for two days. According to the respondent, he was apprehended approximately 10 kilometres away from the village of Miletkovo. Reportedly, before he was apprehended, the respondent and his transit group had been chased many times; once by a Dacia Duster, another time by a Chevrolet and also by a Peugeot. On the day of their apprehension, they were looking for a place to hide while they rested and ate some food. Once they passed through a small village they headed towards a “farm” that they had spotted. The respondent did not recall the name of the village. On their way, the respondent reported passing a parked vehicle described as a “Police car” with the “sign and the writing on it” and with its lights turned off. Two members of the transit group decided to stay at the farm while the respondent and his friend continued on.
The two men were walking along a small path beside a vineyard when they spotted another “Police” car parked with the lights off. The respondent believed that the “Police” were waiting for them as they knew they would come along that road. There was reportedly one female and one male both wearing blue uniforms sitting in the vehicle. When asked to further describe the vehicle he said, “it was a white car. It had a blue band and ‘Police’ written on it.” The two officers then reportedly began to chase the transit group, calling after them in English to stop and come back. The respondent and his companion began to run towards what he described as a mountain where they were then apprehended by four men dressed in green and yellow camouflage uniforms with firearms. According to the respondent, the uniformed men had a vehicle with them described as a “white Peugeot civil car.”
“They use civil car to confuse you and make you think that it’s not a risk to pass by them.”
Reportedly, when the men in camouflage uniforms first approached the transit group, they asked them if any of them spoke English, to which the respondent replied no. Then one uniformed man asked them if they spoke Turkish and the respondent replied yes so they began to speak in Turkish. The other vehicle they had ran from moments before then arrived at the scene.
When asked if he had experienced any physical violence, the respondent replied: “When the army apprehended us, they didn’t beat us ‘till the police came, and when the police came, I told them that my friend is really sick so please don’t be violent with him. When I said that, I was beaten up like kicked in my thigh twice, from a police officer.” He further identified the officer that physically abused him as being dressed in the blue uniform and “probably the boss.” The same officer was also verbally assaulting the transit group in English, reported the respondent, saying things like “You don’t have a war, why do you come here? Why did you run away from your home? Go to Albanian, why do you come here?”
The respondent and his friend were then told to get into the car and wait there until another vehicle arrived to take them elsewhere, recalled the respondent. He also recounted how they were told they would be taken to a camp. They were reportedly forced to wait for approximately one hour in the car. Then the other vehicle described as a “black long ford” arrived at the scene along with two more officers dressed in completely black uniforms. Speaking about the men in black, the respondent stated: “They weren’t putting anything on their uniform. It was just black. It is obviously like something from the authorities. If you see the uniform you would think they’re either police or, that’s the impression that you get. But if you look at it you will find no sign. It had something here [the respondent pointed to the top of his arm] but like it was very small and you can’t really see it. ”
Reportedly, at no point during the pushback were the transit group asked for any personal information or fingerprints. When asked if they had been searched, the respondent replied that they had been searched twice by both the men in camouflage uniforms and the men in blue uniforms but neither of them took any of their belongings.
Once the men in black uniforms arrived, the respondent and his group were immediately loaded into the black ford and driven for about 30 minutes along an initially “normal” road until it became “hard or rough” for the last 10 minutes of the drive, recalled the respondent. He described that once they were close to the border – marked by train tracks – they were again locked in the vehicle for approximately one hour and 15 minutes, until they became stressed and began to knock on the windows of the car. The respondent further explained that there was a “small cell” in the back of the vehicle in which they were held, alone. “While we were like knocking on the windows they say like wait we will come, you know? And they took a while to come. So when they came back , they drove us straight to the gate.”
As they were being driven to the gate the respondent recalled telling the unformed men that his friend needed a doctor. “I was telling them I need doctor I need doctor.” The respondent’s companion had recently had an operation on his back, explained the respondent, so he required medical attention, but the officers did not provide any.
The transit group was kept by the border for approximately five to six hours before they were pushed back, recalled the respondent. During this time, they saw about 30 other people pushed back; vehicles were coming and going, unloading groups of people and forcing them back through the gate onto Greek territory.
At about one a.m. the same uniformed men drove the transit group up to the gate along the border. The respondent described the gate as a door with a track that the officers had a key to. He further added that he was continuously told by the uniformed men to keep his head down and not look out at his surroundings. Then, once they opened the gate, they unlocked the car doors and told the transit group to get out and walk through the gate back into Greece, “ They get off the car, they leave you in the car, they open the gate and then they come back.”