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EU agency Frontex charged with illegal pushbacks

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is being held accountable for illegally pushing back a Syrian family. The family was illegally deported to Turkey by Frontex in October 2016, shortly after arriving in Greece. It is the first time that Frontex through an action for damages is held responsible before the EU General Court for illegally deporting people and violating fundamental rights. Reports of similar pushbacks by Frontex have been piling up over the past years. The Syrian family is being represented by law firm Prakken D’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers. Prakken D’Oliveira is supported by the Dutch Council for Refugees, BKB, Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund and Jungle Minds.

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. 

credits: Gemma Pauwels

Violations of fundamental rights 

With the deportation, the family became victims of a so-called pushback, in which people are  deported to a non-EU country without prior procedure. As a result, the family have been  denied the fundamental right to apply for asylum by Frontex. Moreover, Frontex have violated the principle on non-refoulement, a basic principle of international law that prohibits  returning asylum seekers or refugees to a country in which they fear persecution or risk  inhumane treatment. Both are fundamental rights that apply in the European Union, as also  stated in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. By separating children from their parents  during the flight in addition, Frontex violated the rights of the child as it placed the children in  a traumatic situation. 

Undermining the values on which the EU is built 

Despite a complaint procedure about these events, there has been no substantive response  from Frontex on its responsibility for the pushback since the deportation, now five years ago.  Meanwhile, reports of illegal pushbacks by Frontex are piling up. Prakken D’Oliveira Human  

Rights Lawyers now holds Frontex responsible for the violations of fundamental rights on  behalf of the Syrian family: “Breach of fundamental rights of the European Union by an EU  agency is seriously undermining the values on which the Union is founded. We are therefore holding Frontex and the EU accountable and are urging them to restore the rule of law.” It is  the first time that Frontex is held responsible before the EU General Court for illegally  deporting people and violating fundamental rights in this way. 

“Every week, men, women and children fleeing war and violence are illegally deported from  Europe’s borders. People have been killed, others were attacked or mistreated. Frontex  plays a major role in these human rights violations. With this lawsuit and campaign, we as  European citizens hold the EU accountable and demand an immediate end to human rights  violations and oppression at our external borders.” 

International campaign 

With the submission of the case, the Dutch Council for Refugees, BKB, Sea-Watch Legal  Aid Fund, Jungle Minds, and Prakken D’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers are launching the  international campaign #notonourborderwatch. At www.notonourborderwatch.com concerned citizens are offered the opportunity to send a message to the European  Commission urging European Commissioner Johansson, responsible for migration policy, to  immediately end the violations of fundamental human rights at the EU’s external borders.  The campaign is supported by NGOs across Europe. 


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