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29 May 2020 – Macedonia

Photograph of the Migrants' Fractured Arm After Being Treated by a Medical Volunteer in Thessaloniki, (BVMN,
Photograph of the Migrants' Fractured Arm After Being Treated by a Medical Volunteer in Thessaloniki, (BVMN, "THEY WANT TO KILL US. THEY WANT TO KILL US," 22 April 2020,

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, North Macedonia announced on 17 March the closure of all its borders. President Stevo Pendarovski called a state of emergency for 30 days, which was later extended for an additional month. Strict measures were put in place, including curfew and the compulsory use of masks in public places where a safe distance cannot be adhered to. However, these regulations are difficult to adhere to for transit groups as they do not have fixed accommodation or access to face masks.

A 2020 report drafted by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) stated that push backs at the borders continue to take place. In April, masked officers ordered a mass transfer from a camp in Serbia, informing residents that they would be taken to Presevo as a health precaution. Instead, they were driven to the border with North Macedonia and pushed back at gunpoint. The group was later apprehended by North Macedonian authorities and pushed back to Greece. BVMN has recorded four cases of push-backs from North Macedonia to Greece in April. The country’s president has emphasised their “zero tolerance” approach towards migrants crossing the borders: “Regardless of the corona crisis, we are closely monitoring the situation, but mainly there is no difference in our attitude.”

In two cases in April, officers working in the border regions employed violence, resulting in one migrant being unable to walk without crutches and another suffering from a fractured arm. In the latter incident, after having been beaten, four migrants were driven to the border with Greece and the officers “opened the door of the border” and chased the group shouting “go, go, never come back.” As a result, the group decided to make their way back to Thessaloniki.

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, a non-governmental actor in North Macedonia stated that immigration detainees in the country have not been released despite the Covid-19 crisis and detention orders are still being issued. The source, who asked to remain anonymous but whose identity was verified by the GDP, said added that some detainees were taken to quarantine facilities but that no alternatives to detention programs are employed in the country.

Regarding the country’s prisons, it is unclear if measures to protect detainees have been adopted. However, on 9 April, a 47-year-old detainee in the prison of Sutka in Skopje died from Covid-19. A second prisoner died of Covid-19 on 15 April in the pretrial prison in Suto Orizari.

The GDP has been unable to find reports indicating that authorities have adopted any measures to assist migrants in detention.