EU agency Frontex charged with illegal pushbacks

Amsterdam, October 20, 2021 – 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.

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Joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 28-29 June 2016: NGOs strongly condemn new EU policies to contain migration

At the upcoming European Council, European Union (EU) leaders will discuss the European Commission’s Communication on a new Partnership Framework with third countries. The Communication proposes an approach which aims to leverage existing EU and Member States’ external cooperation instruments and tools in order to stem migration to Europe. The undersigned organisations express their grave concern about the direction the EU is taking by making deterrence and return the main objective of the Union’s relationship with third countries. More broadly, this new Partnership Framework risks cementing a shift towards a foreign policy that serves one single objective, to curb migration, at the expense of European credibility and leverage in defence of fundamental values and human rights.

The proposed approach is inspired by the EU-Turkey deal which although touted as a successful example of cooperation, has actually left thousands people stranded in Greece in inhumane and degrading conditions. This has particularly affected children, with the result that hundreds of unaccompanied children have been held in closed detention facilities on the islands or forced to sleep in police cells on the Greek mainland. The wider repercussions of this should not be underestimated. It is hard to see how Europe can ask partner countries to keep their doors open, to host large-scale refugee populations and prevent further movements while at the same time Member States refuse to shoulder their fair share of responsibility for protecting people who flee their homes. The right to asylum is being significantly undermined, and it will become more and more challenging for civilians in conflict zones to seek international protection.

The Commission’s proposal ignores all the evidence on the ineffectiveness of deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration. This approach will not only fail to “break the business-model” of smugglers but increase human suffering as people are forced into taking more dangerous routes. Moreover, despite the stated commitment to respect the principle of non-refoulement, there are no safeguards envisaged to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms are in place.  As a result, people risk being deported to countries where their rights are not safeguarded.  Responsibility and liability for human rights violations do not end at Europe’s borders.

We are disappointed to see that once again the emphasis on deterrence leaves no clear commitments to open up safe and regular channels to Europe for those in need of international protection and for other migrants, e.g. through resettlement, humanitarian admission schemes, family reunification, educational visas, labour mobility and visa liberalisation. Resettlement, labour migration and visa liberalisation are only mentioned as possible leverage with partner countries in a quid pro quo approach.

Another major concern is the financing of the proposed Partnership Framework which would represent a wholesale re-orientation of Europe’s development programming towards stopping migration. This is an unacceptable contradiction to the commitment to use development cooperation with the aim to eradicate poverty, as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Aid is for the benefit of people in need, and should not be used as a leverage for migration control.  EU funding should be transparent and adhere to clearly established principles, such as the Busan principles on effectiveness and the Paris principles of ownership by and alignment to partner countries’ strategies. In addition, striking ‘migration management’ agreements with countries where grave human rights violations are committed will be counter-productive in the longer term – undermining human rights around the globe and perpetuating the cycle of abuse and repression that causes people to flee.

Migration has many drivers; people may be on the move in search of new livelihood opportunities, an education or to reunite with family, while conflict and violence, human rights violations, climate change, poverty and unemployment can all trigger migration and forced displacement. Any cooperation to manage migration should take into consideration this complex and multi-faceted reality, be evidence and needs-based, and ensure that the benefits of migration are maximised and the risks are mitigated.

If the EU wants to call for more global solidarity, it needs to set the right example. The EU, a project built on the rubble of a devastating war, is about to embark on a dark chapter of its history. We urge EU leaders to choose a rights-based system to manage migration, based on a viable long-term strategic vision, rather than pursuing an unattainable and inhumane deterrence objective and thereby abandoning its core founding principles.

As human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development agencies, and key implementing partners of development programmes in third countries, we call on European leaders to:

  1. Reject the current Commission Communication and develop a sustainable long-term and evidence-based strategy for migration management, in consultation with civil society and experts.
  2. Facilitate safe mobility by opening and strengthening safe and regular channels to Europe both for those in need of international protection and other migrants including through resettlement, humanitarian admission and humanitarian visas, family reunification, worker mobility across skill levels and student visas. Member States must commit to clear benchmarks and appropriate timelines for implementing a migration framework that meets the needs of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, their families, as well as the needs and obligations of Member States.
  3. Exclude any conditionality based on migration control indicators in the allocation of development aid to third countries. Development aid is a tool to fight poverty and inequality, not to manage migration. Vulnerable populations should not be punished because of concerns that are largely political.
  4. Stop any readmissions or removals of people by the EU to a third country that violate – or risk violating – fundamental rights and rule of law, including the principle of non-refoulement. Ensure access to protection, justice and effective remedy for all people in migration and asylum procedures.
  5. Ensure transparency in the development of any instruments to manage migration and accountability for human rights violations resulting from EU migration policies.
  6. Commit to a foreign policy and action focused on preventing and unlocking protracted crises. While the Communication mentions the need to address root causes of displacement in the long term, it does not include engagement to prevent and manage crises.

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  1.                     11.11.11
  2.                     ACT Alliance EU
  3.                     Action Contre la Faim (ACF)
  4.                     ActionAid
  5.                     Aditus Foundation
  6.                     Afrique Culture Maroc
  7.                     Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme
  8.                     Aid Services
  9.                     AMERA International/ Rights in Exile
  10.                 Amnesty International
  11.                 Amycos
  12.                 Andalucía Acoge
  13.                 ARCI
  14.                 ARDD-Legal Aid
  15.                 Asamblea de Cooperacion Por la Paz ACPP
  16.                 Asgi – Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione
  17.                 Asociacion por ti mujer
  18.                 Asociacion Salud y Familia – Spain
  19.           Association for action against violence and trafficking in human beings-Open Gate La  Strada Macedonia
  20.                 Association for the Social Support of Youth
  21.                 Ayuda en Acción
  22.                 Bienvenidos Refugiados España
  23.                 British Refugee Council
  24.                 CAFOD
  25.                 Care International
  26.                 Caritas International Belgium
  27.                 CCOO de Andalucia
  28.                 Center for Development of International Law
  29.                 Centre for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria
  30.                 Centre for Youths Integrated Development
  31.                 Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos PRO IGUAL
  32.                 ChildFund Alliance
  33.                 Church of Sweden
  34.                 Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe
  35.                 Citizens’ association for combating trafficking in human beings and all forms of gender-based violence
  36.                 CNCD-11.11.11
  37.                 Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado – CEAR
  38.                 Concern Worldwide
  39.                 CONCORD Europe
  40.                 CONCORD Sweden
  41.                 Conseil des Béninois de France
  42.                 Consortium of Migrants Assisting Organizations in the Czech Republic
  43.                 Coordinadora Andaluza de ONGD
  44.                 Coordinadora Cantabra de ONGD
  45.                 Coordinadora de Barrios
  46.                 Coordinadora de ONGD de  la Región de Murcia
  47.                 Coordinadora de ONGD del Principado de Asturias
  48.                 Coordinadora de ONGD España
  49.                 Coordinadora de ONGD Navarra
  50.                 Coordinadora Extremeña de ONGD
  51.                 Coordinadora Gallega de ONGD
  52.                 Coordinadora ONGD de Castilla y León
  53.                 Coordinadora Valenciana de ONGD
  54.                 Coordination des ONG pour les droits d’enfant
  55.                 Coordination et Initiatives pour Réfugiés et Étrangers (CIRÉ)
  56.                 Cordaid
  57.                 Detention Action
  58.                 Detention Forum
  59.                 Doctors of the World International network
  60.                 EMERGENCY ONG ONLUS
  61.                 EU-CORD Network
  62.                 Eurochild
  63.                 EuroMed Rights
  64.                 European Association for the Defence of Human Rights
  65.                 European Council on Refugees and Exiles
  66.                 European Youth Forum
  67.                 Federación Aragonesa de ONGD
  68.                 Federación de Asociaciones de Derechos Humanos
  69.                 Federation of Christian NGOs in Italy
  70.                 FIACAT
  71.                 FIDH
  72.                 FIZ advocacy and support for migrant women and victims of trafficking
  73.                 Flüchtlingsrat Niedersachsen e.V.
  74.                 Forum des Organisations de Solidarité Internationale issues des Migrations
  75.                 France terre d’asile
  76.                 Fundacion 1º de Mayo de Comisiones Obreras
  77.                 Fundación Alianza por los Derechos, la Igualdad y la Solidaridad Internacional –APS-
  78.                 Greek Forum of Refugees
  79.                 Habitat for Humanity International, Europe, Middle East and Africa
  80.                 Handicap International
  81.                 Hellenic Platform for Development
  82.                 Human Rights Watch
  83.                 Human Rights Without Frontiers
  84.                 Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries
  85.                 Inspiraction
  86.                 Instituto Sindical de Cooperación al Desarrollo – ISCOD
  87.                 InteRed
  88.                 INTERSOS
  89.                 Islamic Relief UK
  90.                 Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
  91.                 Justice and Peace Netherlands
  92.                 KISA-Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism
  93.                 Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für internationale Entwicklung und Mission
  94.                 La Strada International
  95.        – Organitzacions per a la Justícia Global
  96.                 Le Monde des Possibles
  97.                 Lebanon Humanitarian INGO Forum
  98.                 Macedonian Young Lawyers Association
  99.                 Médecins Sans Frontières
  100.              Menedék – Hungarian Association for Migrants
  101.              Migrant Voice UK
  102.              Migrants’ Rights Network
  103.              Movimiento contra la Intolerancia
  104.              Movimiento por la Paz – MPDL
  105.              Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre
  106.              Norwegian Refugee Council
  107.              Oxfam
  108.              PAX
  109.              Pax Christi International
  110.              PICUM-Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants
  111.              Plan International EU office
  112.              Platform Minors in exile / Plate-forme Mineurs en exil / Platform Kinderen op de vlucht (Belgium)
  113.              PRO ASYL
  114.              Red Acoge
  115.              Refugee Aid Serbia
  116.           Réseau de Compétences Solidaires – Groupement d’Economie Sociale et Solidaire      France – Europe – Afrique
  117.              Réseau Immigration Développement Démocratie –  IDD
  118.              Respect Network in Europe
  119.              Safer World
  120.              Save the Children
  121.              SOS Children’s Villages International
  122.              SOS Racisme – Touche pas à mon pote
  123.              Stichting LOS
  124.              Swedish Refugee Advice Centre
  125.              Tamkeen Fields for Aid- Jordan
  126.              Télécoms Sans Frontières
  127.              Terre des Hommes International Federation
  128.              The International Federation of Social Workers European Region
  129.              The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture victims
  130.              The Norwegian Centre Against Racism
  131.              Translators without Borders
  132.              Transnational Migrant Platform
  133.              Trócaire
  134.              United for Intercultural Action
  135.              Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen (Flemish Refugee Action)
  136.              Welthungerhilfe
  137.              World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy
  138.              World Vision Brussels and EU Representation
  139.              ZOA

‘What does Solidarity mean for Malta?’ – NGO paper presented to Government

Yesterday, during a meeting with the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, we presented our perspectives on what we feel Malta should be doing in the context of solidarity with refugees entering, or attempting to enter, the European Union.

‘What does Solidarity mean for Malta?’ is a document presented jointly by aditus foundation aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Kopin, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Migrant Women Association Malta, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Peace Lab, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.

We present 5 concrete recommendations to the Malta Government, in the hope that Malta can give true meaning to ‘solidarity’. Below is the document’s introduction, and the full document can be downloaded here:

“The recent weeks have seen unprecedented numbers of migrants and refugees seeking to enter the European Union, largely through its southern and eastern Member States. Dramatic pictures of the situation at these points of entry are evidence of the political instability and human rights violations pushing people to leave their homes, and of the dangers they face throughout their journeys. These are clearly trying times for the European Union and its Member States, when the values and principles we hold so dearly need to stand strong in the face of rising populism, racism and xenophobia.

The on-going negotiations within the European Council are struggling to find those solutions that will translate values and principles into the actions required to ensure full respect for fundamental human rights, including the right to asylum as firmly enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Malta is also called upon to actively participate in these discussions in order to express its true solidarity with those Member States that seem to be unable to cope with the strains presented by the arrival of so many migrants and refugees.

The under-signed 14 non-governmental organisations working with and for migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees would like to take this opportunity to offer suggestions as to how Malta can express and practice such solidarity. At the heart of our recommendations is the belief that solidarity should not be exclusively based on mechanisms beneficial to Member States, but that it ought to be primarily concerned with upholding the fundamental human rights of those persons facing intense hardships and violations.

Importantly, we stress our understanding that solidarity cannot happen if kept limited to words of sympathy or grief. The transition from words to action remains the Europe Union’s key challenge, and we urge Malta to be a catalyst of such transition and to refrain from widening the gap between sentiment and tangible support.”