Macedonia

Last update: 25.11.2016
IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Since the complete closure of the Balkan Corridor in March 2016, the border to Greece is controlled by armed forces. Many people still try to cross through Macedonia to Serbia. Some people try a lot of times before they reach Serbia.

People that are caught by the Macedonian police or army are most of the time directly pushed back to Greece. Macedonian legislation is formulated in a way that makes expulsion and push backs legal, as all neighbouring countries of Macedonia are considered “safe countries”. However, to make the pushback legal, Macedonia must respect the readmission program, which most of the time it does not. People are thereby denied their right to claim asylum, which is a violation of their basic rights. People have reported to be pushed back on random spots, often far away from the next village. Before being pushed back, people are often held outside the Gevgelija camp and interrogated, searched and registered if they carry documents. After the interrogation process is over, the Red Cross is usually allowed to provide humanitarian relief to them. The civil society activists are no longer allowed to interact with the people held outside the camp.

Few people that have been considered extremely vulnerable cases have been allowed to seek asylum in Macedonia and were brought to Gevgelija camp.

GEVGELIJA CAMP (SOUTHERN MACEDONIA)
The camp in Gevgelija is a closed camp. People cannot exit it, except on rare occasions for medical reasons or sometimes purchases, but usually only for one hour and always accompanied by the Red Cross. Currently, there are around 104 people in the camp in Gevgelija. Most of them are refugees that have been stuck in Macedonia since the border closures in March.

Once people have applied for asylum, they should be given an ID, which allows them to have freedom of movement within Macedonia. However, freedom of movement was not granted to the people in the Gevgelija camp. On the 4th of November there was a victory for these people, as they were transferred to the open centre in Skopje, due to civil society pressure.

It appears that it is quite arbitrary and there are no clear rules about who can seek asylum and who has to stay in Gevgelija camp and who is brought to the open centre in Skopje. Some people that have arrived in Gevgelija after the closure of the borders and sought asylum, were taken to the open asylum centre in Skopje. Others were just allowed to stay in the Gevgelija camp without seeking asylum at all. If people are in need of serious medical treatment they are most of the time allowed to go to the hospital in Skopje.

CLOSED CENTRE FOR FOREIGNERS (GAZI BABA)
Approximately 20 people are currently in the Gaza Baba detention centre, but the number of people there fluctuates everyday. If a group of refugees is caught in Macedonia, usually they are directly pushed back to Greece. However, if the group is suspected to have a smuggler, one or two people from the group will be taken to Gazi Baba together with the suspected smuggler to be held as witnesses against the smuggler. At the moment, people are not held there as witnesses for more than one month.
ASYLUM AND FAMILY REUNIFICATION IN MACEDONIA
Macedonia is not an EU-country. This means that people can ask for asylum or have their fingerprints taken in Macedonia without problems to ask asylum in another European country later on.

People who qualified for family reunification who have nuclear family in Germany have been rejected by the German embassy in Skopje for months and told to go to an EU-country if they want to apply for family reunification. However, 2 people have now managed to be reunified with their families in Germany after months of waiting and it seems like the German embassy in Skopje will now allow the others to also be reunited.

For more information on asylum in Macedonia, see: http://w2eu.info/macedonia.en

RETURNING VOLUNTARLY TO GREECE
For the ones that are already inside the Gevgelija camp or will manage to get in, it is important to know that if they decide to start the asylum application procedure and for some reason they are not transferred to Skopje and stay stuck in the Gevgelija camp while waiting for their asylum request to be processed – and if in the meantime they wish to go back to Greece – they won’t be allowed to do so while their application is ongoing. Otherwise, the police allow the people who wish to return to Greece to exit the Gevgelija camp and to go back to Greece “informally”.
FORCED RETURNS AND PUSH-BACKS FROM SERBIA TO MACEDONIA
There are more and more reports of people being brought to the closed camp in Presovo, Serbia, and are subsequently brought to the border with Macedonia where they are pushed-back. These forced returns to Macedonia are not based on any legal ground and are not coordinated with the Macedonian authorities. The Macedonian authorities are therefore not waiting for people coming from Serbia. Most of the people are returned on the Miratovac-Lojane border, which is not an official border crossing. You might find some non-governmental support in the area.

There are mainly reports of people from Pakistan, North Africa and Afghanistan to be pushed back so far. There are only few people from Syria and few families and vulnerable people reported to be pushed-back. However, this can not be taken for granted, as the push-backs appear to happen arbitrarily. Increasingly, there are also people pushed back who have already applied for asylum in Serbia and have documents that proof that. The Serbian authorities are reported to destroy all proof that people have been in Serbia. It is therefore important to take pictures of the Serbian documents, as well as pictures of you in Serbia, and store them in a save place, such as e-mail or Facebook. If you experienced violence during the push-back and receive treatment from a doctor or hospital, ask the doctors/hospitals for a paper that documents at least that you were examined or even better an attest on what you suffered from.

It might make sense to register the push-backs and other human rights violations you experienced with known organisation, such as the following in order to have some evidence for your asylum case. The following organisations are a selection of independent institutions that document push-backs. We can also help you with this. Reporting the push-back will not help you to cross the border. But it is possible to seek justice for the human rights violation you experienced. Taking legal steps against push-backs take a very long time. However, we believe it is important, as it can help the people who travel this way later on and it could also lead to a financial compensation to the injustice done to you. You can also go before court if you have reached another EU-country, but there are deadlines. Please seek legal advice soon enough.

CONTACTS
You can contact us to seek help in finding the right organisation to report your push-back: live@w2eu.info

The following organisations can further record the push backs you experienced and build public pressure on the governments that have conducted these illegal push-backs or other human rights violations

UNHCR-Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

Legis

Further contacts in Macedonia

MORE INFORMATION ON MACEDONIA
w2eu.info/macedonia.en
NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
Serbia