Update: Appeal lodged before CJEU in the action for damages against EU agency Frontex for their role in illegal pushback

Last week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).

Initially, the Court issued a provisional decision, asking to the Greek Government information about the steps that had been taken on the allegation of pushback. The decision also imposed that first-aid assistance be provided to the asylum-seekers, who had been forced to live for three days without access to food, water, shelter, nor medical assistance.

Sadly, by the time the Court reached such a decision, three out of four asylum-seekers had been already subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback. However, the proceedings continued in respect of the fourth asylum-seekers, and the results so achieved are important.

After having received further information on the case by us and by the Greek Government, the European Court has concluded that the asylum-seeker who is still in Greek territory cannot be subjected to a removal.

In our knowledge, this is the first time that the European Court of Human Rights issues a decision ordering that a pushback from the Greek islands should not take place.

Such decision reminds of those issued against Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in the context of the Belarusian crisis, thus representing a key element in the widening of the protection afforded by the European Court of Human Rights to asylum seekers throughout Europe.

Read the full article hereThe 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.

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