Update: Appeal lodged before CJEU in the action for damages against EU agency Frontex for their role in illegal pushback
The General Court of the European Union dismissed the action for damages brought against Frontex for its role in the pushback of a Syrian family (Case T-600/21) on 6 September 2023. An appeal against the General Court’s judgment has now been lodged before the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Syrian family in question was illegally deported to Turkey in October 2016, shortly after arriving in Greece, in a joint operation conducted by Frontex and the Greek authorities. During the return operation, the family, including the children, were separated from one another and each escorted by border guards, in violation of the rights of the child.
It is the first time that a damages claim has been brought against Frontex before the EU General Court for its role in illegally deporting people in violation of their fundamental rights. The judgment of the General Court leaves open fundamental and important issues which are raised in the appeal to the Court of Justice.
The central question is, how should Frontex's mandate be understood? Regulation 2016/1624 (‘the Frontex Regulation’) clearly confers a monitoring task on Frontex to ensure respect for human rights. Thus, Article 34 of the Frontex Regulation 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 General Court’s ruling leaves entirely unclear what that means in practice. For which activities can Frontex be held accountable, and to whom? In a Union based on the rule of law, power must be accompanied by accountability. That central question cannot be allowed to remain unanswered.
Europe, are you watching?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’ These rights don't change based on race, religion, sex or nationality, or whether you seek safety by land, air or sea. Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights is supposed to ensure that everyone has the right to ask for asylum.
For the past few years, EU member states have used illegal operations to push back tens of thousands of asylum seekers from Europe’s borders. Frontex, the border agency of the European Union plays a key role in these pushbacks and abuses. Preventing access to a fair assessment of their claim, violating their basic human rights and using repression and violence to prevent them from finding a safe harbour.
As a result of these practices over 2,000 people have lost their lives, others have been assaulted, abused and mistreated. They are men, women, and children fleeing from wars and violence who should have access to a fair asylum procedure.
Frontex is funded by the European Union and is actively destroying the fundamental principles on which the Union is built. Funded by the EU means funded by us.
It is set out in law that every human being deserves their basic human rights to be protected. The rule of law applies to everyone on our territory and at our borders.
Therefore, we ask Europe to justify itself. Why is Frontex, funded by European taxpayers, actively being used to destabilize and circumvent the principles of the European Union? Why is a European organization violating human rights at our borders?
We want to hold the European Union accountable in several ways. We are starting legal actions against Frontex and European States, conducting research journalism on the role of the European Union and using public and political pressure against European member states supporting Frontex.
Together we can change this system of violation and oppression. As European citizens, we must not only ask Europe for an explanation, but above all demand that this system in which fundamental rights are ignored be changed. Because we cannot let this happen. Not on our border watch.
Join us in our cause, by supporting our actions and goals.
So Europe, do please explain...
Why refugees are illegally being pushed back and harmed by a European institution?
Why is Frontex actively ignoring and violating basic human rights and the rule of law?
Why am I, as a European citizen, made complicit against my will in the destruction of the rule of law?
Why am I forced to work for an organization that uses illegal methods?
Why was I beaten, left adrift at sea and sent back to the place from which I have fled?
Our lawsuit against Frontex
In October 2016 a Syrian family was returned from Greece to Turkey on a flight operated by Frontex and Greece. They were denied the right to have their asylum claim processed in Greece, the young children aged 2, 5 and 7 were treated in an inhuman and degrading manner during the flight, and Frontex subsequently refused to analyse its own responsibility for the unlawful return of the family. Thereby, the fundamental rights of the family were violated.
Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers has lodged the first legal action for damages on behalf of the family against Frontex at the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg. Our goal is to attain redress for the family that has suffered greatly by the illegal push back and to hold Frontex to account for its own actions. It is no longer acceptable that Frontex, equipped with an ever wider mandate and a bigger budget, deems itself above the law. It is time that Frontex respects fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Spotlight Borders; Podcast in cooperation with Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund
Listen to the podcast in which our client, the father of the Syrian family, takes you through the events that took place when he and his family wanted to seek asylum in Europe. We can not let this happen, not on our border watch!
Spotlight Borders is a podcast dedicated to people on the move and their supporters
Series 1: Legal Action against Frontex
Episode 1: From Pushback to Litigation:
The anonymous, main plaintiff of the first legal action for damages against Frontex before the Court of Justice of the European Union. Our guest represents a family who was pushed back at the EU border in Greece and is now holding Frontex to account for its actions. With the support of an interpreter, we give voice to his family.
YOU CAN HELP
Together we can raise awareness, hold the European Union accountable and change this system of violation and oppression. As European citizens, we must not only ask Europe for an explanation, but above all demand that this system in which fundamental rights are ignored be changed.
Send an e-mail to the European Commission
We created an email to the European council, where we ask the EU to answer for the inconsistent and outrageous behaviour by Frontex. We demand: Stop border atrocities by the EU and Frontex; not on our border watch!
Dear Commissioner Johansson,
Fundamental human rights are being violated at the external borders of the European Union. Asylum seekers and refugees are denied safety, caused by illegal pushbacks. They are deprived of their human right to apply for asylum, actively endangering their lives.
Frontex, the European Border Agency, is involved in these violent and dangerous pushbacks. A European agency, funded by the EU, is actively violating fundamental human rights, rather than defending them.
As a human being, a European citizen and a European taxpayer, I call on you to end these human rights violations at our borders. If the European Union stands for 'a community of values', it must guarantee basic human rights and the rule of law on its own territory.
As guardian of the EU legal order, it is up to the Commission, together with other EU organs, to stop member states and Frontex violating the Common European Asylum System. Therefore I ask you, Commissioner, to take the necessary steps to end these abuses of asylum seekers by Frontex, and to uphold the rule of law.
I look forward to your reply.
[YOUR NAME HERE]
Also on behalf of the Coalition "Not on our Border Watch"
Spread the word on Social Media
As European citizens, we must not only ask Europe for an explanation, but above all demand that this system in which fundamental rights are ignored be changed.
You can also help by spreading the message within your own network on social media and other channels that this must stop now. Stop border atrocities by the EU and Frontex: Stop the illegal pushbacks! Not on our border watch!
Stay updated about our projects
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The project ‘Not on our border watch’ is initiated by law firm Prakken d’Oliviera Human Rights Lawyers, the Dutch Council for Refugees the campaign agency BKB and Sea Watch Legal Aid:
Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers is a law firm that champions the interests of individuals and companies, with a special focus on human rights. Our attorneys are known to be experts in their field and have a reputation that extends well beyond national boundaries. Learn more here.
The Dutch Council for Refugees works for the protection and integration of asylum seekers and refugees - in the Netherlands, but also beyond - through advocacy, legal cooperation and support to local NGOs in and around Europe. Learn more here
BKB develops campaigns for governments, private companies and public organizations. From their office in Amsterdam they raise issues that they consider important, ranging from refugee matters to equal opportunity in education, from sustainable banking to the importance of open data, and from veterans to work-related stress. Learn more here.
Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund aims to provide financial and legal assistance to people and organisations who are subject to legal action due to their commitment to people on the move. By supporting targeted people subject to legal proceedings, it informs people on the move with regards to their rights, and provides assurance to the organisations and individuals supporting them Learn more here.
The campaign is supported by a coalition of European NGO’s. Within this coalition they join forces 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.
The project ‘Not on our border watch’ is supported by a coalition of European NGO’s. Within this coalition they join forces 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.
The partners in the coalition support the project with their own expertise and network. To raise awareness and support for legal actions against Frontex and European States, conducting research journalism on the role of the European Union and using public and political pressure against European member states supporting Frontex.
This coalition was formed in July 2021 and will attract more partners and supporters in order to grow in number and in strength. All partners in this coalition have devoted themselves to work individually on establishing a common goal.
Amnesty International reconstructs suspected illegal pushback of group of 32 Afghan people in August using photogrammetry and spatial modelling techniques.Read more
The lawsuit filed to the Court of Justice of the European Union on behalf of Syrian refugees against Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. These refugees were deported to Turkey via a pushback by plane exactly five years ago.Read more
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’ These rights don't change based on race, religion, sex or nationality, or whether you seek safety by land, air or sea. In Article 18 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights it is ensured that everyone has the right to ask for asylum.Read more
We believe that collectively we can put an end to push backs once and for all. This starts by raising awareness of the atrocities at our border. Our request is simple. We urge the EU to uphold the human rights commitments it entered into. Together we call upon EU citizens to unite and to voice their concern: not on our border watch.Read more