Today's ruling is unsatisfactory, first and foremost for the family. They are disappointed that Frontex is not held accountable for its role in the illegal pushback they are victims of and the way they were deported.

Today, the General Court of the European Union ruled in the case of a Syrian family against Frontex. The family holds Frontex liable for the fact that they were brought from Greece to Turkey with the help of Frontex when no decision had been made on their asylum application. In addition, the children were separated from their parents during the deportation. This was a so-called pushback. The family was represented in the case by Prakken d'Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers and the case was supported by the Dutch Council for Refugee, BKB and Sea Watch Legal Aid Fund. The General Court dismissed the claim today.

However, this ruling clarifies that the responsibility for respecting human rights lies solely with the member states.

The ruling raises two questions:

How should Frontex's mandate be understood? It clearly sets out a monitoring task for Frontex to ensure respect for human rights. For example, Article 34 of the Frontex Regulation 2016/1624 states that Frontex is required to establish "an effective mechanism to monitor the respect for fundamental rights in all the activities of the Agency." The ruling does not make clear what this means in practice. It remains unclear in what way Frontex is required to carry out its monitoring task.

To whom and for which activities can Frontex be held accountable? Frontex has great power over the lives of individuals, as the case of the Syrian family shows. In a Union based on the rule of law, power must be accompanied by accountability. This ruling shows that individuals cannot hold Frontex accountable in court for how the Agency treats them.

It is now up to political institutions, especially the European Commission, to clarify Frontex's mandate. It must clarify how Frontex must monitor compliance with human rights. Prakken d'Oliveira's lawyers will consider follow-up steps and appeal with the family.


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