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.
On 5th December Claire, one of our Legal Interns, attended the first meeting of PICUM’s new Working Group on Migration Policies. The meeting was a key opportunity for PICUM members to coordinate and promote actions to support PICUM’s migration policy work and to provide substantial evidence and recommendations to policy makers.
PICUM’s staff and representatives of very diverse NGOs from Spain, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK and Malta.
2 topics were discussed:
A short Directive overview was provided: its positive aspects (voluntary departure, monitoring of forced returns, reduction of maximum detention periods across the EU, etc.), its shortcomings (detention conditions, no systematic use of alternative to detention, not independent forced return monitoring system, effectiveness of the return policy..).
After this presentation participants engaged in a short discussion about FRONTEX and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with an agreement to try to obtain national information on forced return operations with a focus on monitoring, treatment of vulnerable persons, and implementation of FRONTEX Code of Conduct.
- Criminalisation of migration and its impact on migrants’ fundamental rights
A presentation of the Spanish campaign ‘Save the Hospitality’ was delivered as a good practice of a campaign against such criminalization. This was followed by a discussion on the Mos Maiorum operation.
Our participation at this Working Group is an important part of our own capacity-building efforts, as well as our commitment to contribute towards the improvement of human rights legal and policy standards.