The respondent is male, 17 years old and from Morocco. He came with four other Moroccan men from Turkey to Greece walking and reached Xanthi on 30th November 2020. At 7 p.m. they were in a truck park looking for vehicles heading for Thessaloniki, when seven or eight police officers in civil clothes approached them in three black cars. They got out of their vehicles and shouted at them “Stop! Police!” while chasing them on foot. The group tried to escape, however only the respondent himself and another 17-year-old Moroccan succeeded, while for the rest it is believed that they got apprehended – their whereabouts are unknown. During the hasty escape, they left behind their bags, which were presumably confiscated by the police.
After this encounter, the respondent and his friend stayed close to the truck park for five days, the first three of which they did not eat anything, as they were afraid to leave their hiding place. On 5th December, they met three other Moroccan men, aged 18 and 19, and together with them climbed a truck with a North Macedonian number plate. The truck left Xanthi in the evening at 8 p.m.
The next day at 10 a.m., when they had just crossed the border, the driver took a one-day-break. The group did not leave the bus during this time, as they were still in the border region and wanted to avoid any risk of being apprehended. The respondent reported, that “without food and without anything [he] starved.” Eventually, on Monday, 7th December, at 6:30 a.m. (Greek time) the driver continued his journey and after two and a half hours the truck arrived inside a factory. With the information that was provided by the respondent, it can be assumed that the lorry stopped close to or in Tetovo at approximately 8 a.m. North Macedonian time. (he provided a maps pin here)
The group wanted to leave the truck at this point and started making noise in order to draw the driver’s attention. Two hours later, at 10 a.m. the doors were opened and they found themselves in front of approximately 18 people. Out of those 18 people, 12 were uniformed policemen, three people were filming them, and another three women were from an organisation the respondent supposed to be a humanitarian aid organisation. The women were wearing a logo on their arms which, according to the respondent “looked like the Macedonian flag but it’s not this flag.” They tried to calm down the group and asked them if they needed food or water. After this they left the scene to bring, as the respondent believed, food for them. The three people filming were all wearing civil clothes, yet one of them apparently was a police officer, as the respondent encountered him later on in a police station.
Half an hour later, at 10:30 a.m., the group was brought to a nearby official police department with an ambulance van in a 5-minute-drive. The driver was dressed in civil clothes. At the station, they were body-searched and had to put all their personal items – phones, money, etc. – in a box. They never explicitly asked for asylum, yet they told the police “We want to go to a camp, we want to stay here”, whereupon the police assured them that they are going to be brought to a camp. The respondent also told the officers that he was 17 years old. The group was then locked in a cell that had two sponge beds in it. During their stay there they were denied food or water. At 9 p.m. they were returned their personal items and put in a blue police van in a 10-minute-drive to another police department. The vehicle from the inside resembled a cell with small metal chairs in it. The drivers were two policemen.
At this police station the members of the group were interviewed by the police individually. During the interview there were one policewoman, the policeman who had filmed them in the morning and an Arabic translator present. The respondent was asked for his personal information, his reasons for coming to North Macedonia and how he came. During the conversation the translator repeatedly accused him of lying. Everyone of the five group members was interviewed for 10 minutes and after that, hence one hour later, they were made to sign several papers without translation as the translator had already left. They entered the same van again and returned to the first police station, where they waited outside in the car for 45 minutes. One officer left the vehicle while the other one stayed inside to watch the group.
When he came back, at approximately 10:30 p.m. they started driving heading for the Greek border. They stopped two times in the beginning, at a petrol station and at a small market. The respondent could not state the location of neither of those stops, as inside the van he did not get any GPS signal. Two hours later they arrived at the border close to Gevgelija. There were three officers waiting for them wearing military clothes and balaclavas who opened a gate in the border fence and shouted at them to “go back” to Greece. They also kicked them while they were passing the gate. Reportedly, the location of this pushback was exactly here. This particular border gate has been used to carry out pushbacks repeatedly, as several reports show. The latest documented pushback at this location dates back to October 24.
Since it was night and the respondent’s group had neither eaten nor drunken anything for more than a day, he described that “it was so cold and we were so hungry, we can’t take a break and we started walking until 11 in the morning” On their way the respondent recalls drinking water from lakes, as he was “so thirsty”. At 11 a.m. they took a short rest and then continued their way to Thessaloniki, where they arrived the next day, on 9th December after walking more than 70 km.