The Case


The lawsuit against Frontex

1. The Facts

A Syrian/Kurdish family consisting of a husband, wife and four young children had arrived in Greece in October 2016, where they expressed their wish to apply for asylum. They were informed that they would be taken from the Greek Islands to Athens by plane. As it turned out, however, the flight was a Frontex-operated return mission, taking the family to Turkey instead of Athens. During the flight, the family members, including the children aged 2, 5, and 7, were separated from each other and each of them had to sit next to a stranger in uniform and was not allowed to speak. Clearly, this treatment was very frightening for the young children.

Returning the family to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum, as requested, and individually examining their claim, is a violation of several fundamental rights, including the prohibition of non-refoulement and undermines the rule of law. Furthermore, the treatment of the children during the flight violated the rights of the child.

On behalf of the family, Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyerswe lodged a complaint against both Frontex and Greece within Frontex’s complaints mechanism in January 2017. Three years and nine months followed, in which Frontex refused to review its own role in the illegal push back of the family and limited itself to sending reminders to Greece, who ignored these. Finally, Frontex concluded that the return of the family had been unlawful without offering any form of redress to the family. Despite the fact that the flight was Frontex-operated and Frontex staff had been on board, Frontex concluded that everything is to blame on the Greek authorities.

2. The Lawsuit

We deem it unacceptable that Frontex engages in illegal push backs and do not believe that the Frontex complaints mechanism serves to protect the rule of law if implemented by Frontex as it has been in the case of the family. Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers has therefore lodged the first legal action for damages against Frontex at the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg. We argue that Frontex violated the fundamental rights of the family, especially the right to access to an asylum procedure and the rights of the child, by breaching its duties to identify and mitigate risks to fundamental rights prior to the return operation, by allowing the children to be treated in a degrading manner during the return operation, and by failing to adequately review the complaints of the applicants in the Frontex complaints mechanism, denying the family access to an effective remedy.

Leading academics and lawyers at the Court of Justice itself (including an Advocate General) have expressed in a positive manner, that it is important for the development of the rule of law and the maintenance of human rights standards within the EU that a pilot case is started against Frontex, allowing the Court to rule on the delimitation of responsibility between Frontex and Member States for the first time. This case is an excellent opportunity to do so and thereby contribute to upholding the rule of law in the EU.

3. Our Goal

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.