An action for damages has been filed against European border agency Frontex, in which the agency is held accountable for its role in illegal pushbacks at the European borders.
Coming Thursday, 9 March 2023, the case against Frontex that was brought by a Syrian family will be heard before the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg. This is a unique case: it is the first time that the European border- and coast guard agency is held responsible before the General Court of the European Union for the illegal deportation of people and for the violation of fundamental rights.
Court proceedings against the EU agency were initiated by a Syrian family late 2021. The Syrian family, with three young children between the ages of 1 and 7, applied for asylum in Greece in October 2016. Their request to do so was registered. Eleven days later, Frontex and the Greek authorities deported the family to Turkey by plane without having had the chance to an asylum procedure. There was also no deportation decision. During the flight, that was attended by Frontex staff, the three young children were separated from their parents. They were also ordered not to talk. In Turkey, the family was immediately imprisoned. After their release, the family was unable to access basic services and had trouble making ends meet. They now live in Northern Iraq. The family is assisted in the lawsuit by lawyers Flip Schüller, Marieke van Eik and Lisa-Marie Komp. The case is supported by the Dutch Council for Refugees (VluchtelingenWerk Nederland) the Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund, BKB and Jungle Minds. The family holds Frontex responsible for the human rights violations they suffered and demands compensation.
Violations of EU fundamental rights
This deportation makes the family victim of a so-called 'pushback', by which people are deported to another country without prior procedure. As a result, Frontex denied this family the fundamental right to apply for asylum. In doing so, Frontex also violated the prohibition of non-refoulement, a basic principle of international law that prohibits the return of asylum seekers or refugees to a country where they fear persecution or risk inhumane treatment. Both are fundamental rights that apply in the European Union, as laid down in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. By separating children from their parents during the flight, Frontex also violated the rights of the child given that it put those children in a traumatic situation.
Undermining of values on which the EU is built
During the public hearing on March 9, the Syrian family and Frontex will have the opportunity to share their views on this matter. Reports of illegal pushbacks by Frontex have accumulated in recent years. The Syrian family, holds Frontex responsible for violations of fundamental rights.
Lawyer Lisa-Marie Komp: “The violation of fundamental rights of the European Union by an EU agency is a serious undermining of the values on which the Union is founded. We hold Frontex, and the EU, accountable to restore the rule of law.”
VluchtelingenWerk Nederland: “Every week, men, women and children fleeing wars and violence are illegally expelled from the European borders. People were also killed, others were mistreated. Frontex plays a major role in this. With this case we want to make it clear that no one, including Frontex, is above the law. We want to finally put an end to human rights violations and oppression at our external borders.”
We would like to invite you to pay attention to this trial. The session of the court can be attended, all press is welcome, but there is no live stream. The lawyers can be interviewed on the spot. Please register in advance; the instructions for registration and rules for the press during hearings at the EU Court of Justice can be found on their website.
More information about the case can be found on the website notonourborderwatch.com