A transit group of seven people (all men, three of whom are from Pakistan and four from Afghanistan) attempted to cross N. Macedonia from Gevgelija (MKD) via train. They were aiming for the capital city Skopje (MKD) with plans to later proceed to Serbia. However, when the train reached Negotino (MKD), two officers wearing medical masks searched the train and subsequently apprehended the transit group. The officers asked the transit group if they had documentation to which the respondent, a 37 year old man from Pakistan, said:
“I don’t have any document, so what can I do?”
The respondent described how the officers then contacted their colleagues making a request for a police van in order to transport the group elsewhere. Whilst they waited for the van to arrive, the transit group were held in one of four shipping containers next to the train station. The respondent describes the container as being air conditioned, stating that when the doors of the container were closed there was an ‘air problem’. This, he asserts, led the officer to open the doors after announcing:
I will open the doors and you sit here, and I will come back.
The transit group used this as an opportunity to escape apprehension by running away. The respondent split up from the rest of the group and proceeded to walk to Tabanovce (MKD) over consecutive days. Some friends had previously told the respondent that there was a refugee camp in Tabanovce (MKD), near the N. Macedonia-Serbia border and to seek it out if he needed assistance, medical or otherwise. The respondent said he had sustained injuries to his feet from repeatedly walking over difficult terrain during his journey and, as such, decided to enter the camp.
Upon entering, two officers asked for the respondent’s information, then took his fingerprints and photograph. Afterwards, he was seen by medical staff who checked his temperature which, he asserts, was a precaution against the possible spread of COVID-19. The medical staff then gave the respondent pain killers for his feet and told him that the doctor would see him in the morning.
Tomorrow, you will come. The doctor, he will see you.
The respondent woke at 08:00 and had some breakfast before being summoned by some officers working in the camp. The officers placed the respondent in the back of a van with 16 other people, including a Syrian family. The group were transported to Gevgelija (MKD) on the N. Macedonia-Greek border where the officers pushed them back saying:
That is the gate. You go inside to Greece.
The respondent emphasized that transporting such a large number of people in close confines was “not fair because of Corona […] Anyone have Corona, everyone have Corona”. The respondent also mentioned that the three officers involved in the push-back all failed to where medical masks which is why he could identify them as men. The respondent also believed that approximately an additional 70 or 80 people were pushed back from the camp on the same day, including two other families. Following the push-back, the respondent made his way back to Thessaloniki (GRK) by train from the border region of Idomeni (GRK), commenting:
“I have seen a lot of suffering. What I can do now? Nothing. I will try again.”