The respondent is a 33-year-old man from Morocco who was pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece on 18th May 2021.
The respondent was traveling with six other men from Morocco, five men aged between 18 and 33 and one minor aged between 16 and 17.
The group traveled by train from Thessaloniki to the border of North Macedonia on Monday 17th May. On arrival at the border, between 8 and 8:30pm the group jumped over the fence to reach North Macedonia.
The group began walking into North Macedonia. They crossed a highway and continued walking for some time before finding a place to sleep. At 5 am on Tuesday 18th May the group continued their journey on foot. They walked around 40km, avoiding major roads until they reached a village. On the outskirts of the village, the group found a bridge, under which is a train line.
The group jumped on a passing train as it slowed to go under the bridge and rode the train around 25km. At around 5 pm, when approaching a train station in a small village, the group were spotted by police, who were checking tickets.
The respondent’s group jumped from the train and ran from the police. The respondent, however, had an injured leg and was unable to run. He disembarked the train and was grabbed by a policeman who was accompanied by four men in military uniforms and one man in civilian clothes who appeared to be a security guard.
“I had an injury to my leg. My friends – they ran, but I couldn’t run. Then they beat me and said ‘why did your friends run?’”
The men in military uniform were in light blue and carried guns. The respondent stated that one man shot his gun into the air as he was being apprehended.
The man in police uniform had the North Macedonian flag on his shoulder and also carried a gun.
The man in civilian clothes wore a blue shirt with black trousers.
The respondent described how, upon apprehension, he was grabbed by the back of the neck, thrown to the floor and beaten with a hard plastic baton on the back for around two minutes until the baton became deformed.
“All of the group members ran away and I was the only one. He came, he pulled me from the back of my neck, he started beating me and he threw me on the ground. I asked him for water and then he started beating me”.
The respondent asked for water but was refused and laughed at. He took out a cigarette and asked for a lighter but was again refused and had his cigarette taken from him.
The man in police uniform then made a phone call and around 10 minutes later two more men in police uniform – navy blue and with the North Macedonian flag on the arm – arrived with a blue van with the word ‘police’ written across the side. There was also a translator who the respondent mentioned was from Pakistan and could not speak Arabic, which is the respondent’s language. Inside the van was a man from Pakistan who was around 27-years-old.
The respondent stated that he was told to get in the van and when attempting to do so, he was kicked in the back.
“They were laughing at me. When they said I should go inside the van, he kicked me on the back when I tried to ride the van”.
The van had small benches in the back, one window so that the driver could see passengers in the back and one small window in the very back.
The respondent was driven for less than 30 minutes until they reached a camp close to the border with Greece. The respondent was not informed of where he was being taken and was not spoken to at all, apart from when being told to “get out”.
Upon reaching the camp, a female Tunisian translator, potentially also mentioned in a previous report, who wore civilian clothes and was described as around 27 years old, spoke to the respondent. Again, the respondent was refused water.
“She wasn’t allowing me to smoke, to drink water, she was racist to me more than anyone. The way she treated me, it wasn’t fair. When I was standing, she was telling me to sit and when I was sitting, she was telling me to stand”.
The respondent entered a small building where one man in civilian clothes took his photo and fingerprints.
After this, the respondent was taken by van by the same two men in police uniform to the border. They opened the door and told the respondent to “Go back to Greece”.
At no point did the respondent ask for asylum.
“I didn’t ask for asylum because I thought they would take me to detention and I don’t know how else I would stay there”.
The respondent recounted that he immediately tried to enter North Macedonia again, jumping over the same fence as the day previously. The respondent experienced a very similar second pushback where he was taken to the same camp near the border and fingerprinted again.