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“we were not allowed to see anything because the heads were down to the ground”

Date & Time 2021-08-05
Location Gevgelija, North Macedonia
Reported by Anonymous Partner
Coordinates 41.12826086, 22.51694411
Pushback from North Macedonia
Pushback to Greece
Taken to a police station yes
Minors involved no
WLTI* involved yes
Men involved yes
Age 22 - 22
Group size 7
Countries of origin Morocco
Treatment at police station or other place of detention fingerprints taken, photos taken, personal information taken
Overall number of policemen and policewomen involved 7
Violence used no violence used
Police involved x1 officer in civilian clothes, x2 officers in black uniforms with ‘police’ written in yellow across their chests, x1 officer in military uniform, some officers in black uniforms with "police" written on them, x3 officers in black uniforms, x1 blue police van, x1 white van, x1 blue or black van

The respondent is a 22-year-old man from Morocco that was pushed back from North Macedonia to Greece. He was travelling with a group of seven people of whom all were from Morocco, including a pregnant woman and her husband.

The respondent and the transit group had crossed the North Macedonian border and were walking in a mountainous area near the Albanian border when they were apprehended. The respondent recalled seeing a village in a valley below them and deciding to walk down.

Once they were in the village, the respondent reported being stopped by a man in civilian clothing that told them he was a police officer and that they had to stop. He then made a phone call and shorty after, two men in uniform arrived at the scene. The respondent described that the officers were wearing black uniforms with ‘police’ written in yellow on their chests, and therefore identified them as police officers.

The officers then reportedly loaded the group of seven into a blue van with police insignia on the side and drove for approximately 10 minutes before stopping at a building in the village of Ohrid, which the respondent described as a police station. At the station, they were asked some questions about their nationality and their names, and were given some food. According to the respondent:

“they [the group of people-on-the-move] didn’t ask for asylum because the police officers won’t let them even talk to much or something.”

After about one hour, a white van came and the officers brought the transit group to what the respondent described as a small camp close to the border with Greece. The drive lasted for approximately three and a half hours.

At the camp, the group was reportedly told to line up as one officer took each persons fingerprints and pictures, and wrote down their personal information. A female translator was reported to be present. The respondent assumed that she was of Tunisian origin.  She helped the transit group get their phones back when the officers confiscated them, the respondent explained.

There was one man in an army uniform present, while the others officers were wearing black uniforms with ‘police’ written on them, recalled the respondent. When asked whether they asked for asylum, he replied:

“They didn’t want to give us asylum.”

This procedure of collecting personal information, taking pictures, and fingerprints took approximately one hour. Then, a van arrived and the whole transit group was told to get in. The respondent said had trouble identifying the colour of the van as he was told to keep his head down.

“Maybe like black and blue, because we were not allowed to see anything because the heads were down to the ground.”

After driving for around 50 minutes, they stopped at the North Macedonian-Greek border close to the Greek village, Idomeni. There, three officers in black uniforms were already waiting. By then it was almost 12 PM.

The respondent described a metal gate in the border fence that the officers told them to go through into Greek territory. On the other side of the fence, the transit group tried to gather themselves and see where they were on a map and where they should go on but the officers told them that they should leave the area. The group then followed the railways close to the gate until they reached Thessaloniki.