First Legal Action for Damages against Frontex Before The Court of Justice of the European Union

Press Release

Thursday 21 October 2021

London.UK. The first ever legal action for damages against Frontex has been filed before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on behalf of a family of a Syrian family that was returned from Greece to Turkey on a flight operated by Frontex and Greece.

The lawsuit filed by the Netherlands based law firm Prakken d’Oliveira is part of the wider campaign and project ‘Not on our border watch’ also initiated by Prakken d’Oliviera Human Rights Lawyers, the Dutch Council for Refugees, the campaign agency BKB and Sea Watch Legal Aid. Not on My Border Watch consists of  a coalition of organisations that seek to hold the European Union and Frontex accountable for the illegal operations used to push back tens of thousands asylum seekers from Europe’s borders.

About the case

 The Syrian family, with four young children between the ages of 1 and 7, applied for asylum in Greece in October 2016. Their request was registered by the local authorities. Eleven days later, the family was nonetheless deported by Frontex and Greek authorities and taken onto a plane to Turkey without any access to an asylum procedure. Nor was an official expulsion order presented. During the flight arranged by Frontex and with their staff present, the four young children were separated from their parents. More so, they were ordered not to speak to each other. In Turkey, the family was immediately imprisoned. After release, they had no access to basic services and were unable to sustain themselves. Fleeing onwards, the family are now living in northern Iraq. 

The applicants allege the existence of serious and persisting violations of fundamental rights and international protection obligations in the Aegean Sea Region, related to the activities of Frontex, following which the Executive Director of Frontex was obliged to suspend or terminate. More specifically, the applicants submit that ‘the gathered evidence establishes that ‘new tactics’ in the context of border control operations in the Aegean Sea Region, introduced in March 2020, amount to a State (Greece) and organisational (Frontex) policy of systematic and widespread attack directed against civilian populations seeking asylum in the EU, in violation of, inter alia, the right to life, the prohibition on collective expulsion, the principle of non-refoulement, and the right to asylum. [1]

The applicants also allege that Frontex has failed to fulfil its positive obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights with respect to preventing foreseeable violations of the above-mentioned fundamental rights, occurring in the Aegean Sea Region in the context of its operation. Finally, they claim that the failure of the Agency to act in the context of Art. 265 TFEU ‘concerns the applicants directly and individually, as their situation has been prejudiced already multiple times by the new State and organisational policy of systematic and widespread practices of either abduction from EU soil and forcible transfer back to sea, or interception at sea; abandonment at sea on unworthy vessels causing serious risk to life; unlawful refoulement, collective expulsion, and prevention of access to asylum’.[2]

Human Rights at Sea supports this initiative that uses  litigation before the European Court of Justice as means to provide victims of human rights abuses at sea with an effective remedy and to hold accountable the European Border Agency for human rights violations perpetrated at Europe’s borders. It has joined the Not on our Border Watch Campaign as a supporting partner and we will keep pressing the EU for accountability. 

We appeal to the public to go onto the campaign page and sing an email to the Commissioner Johansson requesting the EU to answer for the inconsistent and outrageous behaviour by Frontex.

Read more about the campaign at https://www.notonourborderwatch.com

[1] SS and ST v Frontex (Case T-282/21) CJEU available at https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=244444&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=19889537

[2] SS and ST v Frontex (Case T-282/21) CJEU available at https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=244444&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=19889537

 

ENDS.

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