The Moving Europe team has gathered testimonies of people who crossed into Macedonian territory after having taken part in a march of several hundred refugees from Idomeni camp in Greece. Near the village of Moin, Macedonia, independent observers were separated from the refugees by Macedonian military. The statements below describe the events that took place after this separation. These are testimonies from people the Moving Europe team marched with and visited again today. These people have all been pushed back illegally from Macedonia to Greece, without having been given the possibility to ask for international protection.
The first testimony is of a family of five; two adults and three children one of which is a three-month old baby. When they crossed through to Macedonia, the crowd they were in was separated into groups of about 50 people and were made to sit on the ground. Guarded by the military, they were made to sit for 10 hours outside. They were not given any food and when they asked for water the military refused their request, even when it was to mix the water with powder for the baby’s milk. They witnessed both women and men being beaten by the army. After the long wait, they were brought to a hole in the border fence and pushed through it back to Greece. They could see the hotel close to the official car and truck border crossing in the distance so they started walking towards it because they knew it was close to the camp. The walk back to Idomeni camp lasted 1 hour. They also told us they knew of two pregnant women who lost their babies, either during or after this traumatic day.
The second statement comes from an elderly couple, a man and a woman, who both have a heart condition. They crossed the border to Macedonia and were stopped by the army. They were kept in the village close to where they were stopped for several hours together with a group of about 100 people. At first, they were outside in the cold and wet. Then they say they were taken to some kind of shelter, where it was still very cold. Here, police and military were drinking alcohol, laughing a lot and making fun of them. The army would beat whoever spoke up against them in this setting. All the people were then loaded into an old truck and brought to the fence. Here, the couple saw the soliders cut a hole in the fence. Whilst they were being pushed back to Greece, the soldiers insulted them with animal names such as cow, dog and donkey. They also told them they were “Muslim dogs”. The walk back to the camp took them around one hour.
D, a young man told us that he crossed the river, walked some more and ended up in a village where there was Macedonian military. The military divided him and the other he was with into big groups. There were no NGOs nor the UN where they were made to wait. Eventually, the military brought them to a car and the car brought them back to the border. From the border D walked back to the camp in Idomeni. When he came back to his friends in the camp, they told him they were beaten up by the police on the Macedonian side and were told never to come back to Macedonia. He was back at the camp at 6 o’clock in the evening but he said that many kept coming all through the night, until around 2AM.
After having crossed into Macedonia, M was separated from the journalists and the activists he was with. The group he was a part of was made to sit for seven hours on the ground in the village. Whilst they were waiting in the cold, he said the group tried several times to start a fire. At first the military did not allow them to, but in the end they succeeded. “Either they would have killed us or we would have just died of the cold” he declared, “so we managed to make the fire, despite the military not wanting us to”. After seven hours waiting outside, M’s group was transported in old trucks “like the ones I saw in the films of the second war”, to a location in the mountains. M estimated that the drive lasted 30 minutes. Then the army cut a hole in the fence and pushed the people back onto Greek territory. He then had to walk for about 15 kilometres, a 4 hour walk in total, back to Idomeni camp. He ended his statement by saying “whether we make it to Europe with the relocation program or by another way, I am sure we will find our way to Europe because we are smart. The life of a refugee is very dangerous and adventurous”. M would like to write a book about his “miserable adventures” someday.