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.
Civil society response to the news of safety of the ‘missing’ 110
It is with great relief that we welcome news of the safe disembarkation in Italy of the 110 persons assumed to have been stranded. We thank the Italian authorities for allowing their disembarkation and for providing them with shelter and safety. We also appreciate the statement issued by the Armed Forces of Malta, confirming that the AFM had been closely monitoring this boat for some time.
Civil Society Press Statement on the fate of over 100 people abandoned at sea
We are extremely concerned at the fate of over 100 men, women and children in distress at sea. We know that over the past few days they were in distress in Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone. We also know that a ship was ready to rescue them, but was prevented from doing so by Malta. Now, we are unable to say where they are, if they have been pushed back to Libya or even if they are alive. It is unacceptable that Malta relinquishes its duty to coordinate the rescue of persons in distress in its Search and Rescue Zone. It is also undemocratic and reprehensible that Malta has repeatedly refused to provide information on its decisions and actions.
The Malta Independent carried an interview on the idea of renting a quarantine ship for rescued migrants. The idea is not new: Italy has also resorted to this measure.
Read the full interview here.
“Yet we find it somewhat absurd that we have normalised the idea of forcing people to live on a ship for a number of weeks. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director
Let’s remember that quarantine is a form of detention and there are clear rules on how a State can detain people, even in the case of disease prevention,” he explained.
“Indefinite detention is definitely not allowed, as is detention in a place where living conditions are undignified and abysmal.”
It is beyond shameful that, once more, around 50 men and women have been stranded for days out at sea. They are being housed in miserable and unhygienic conditions on board the MV TALIA, a vessel intended for the transportation of animals. They were rescued on the explicit instructions of the Maltese authorities and are now waiting for a port of safety to be identified. Malta simply may not abdicate responsibility for people on its territory and for whom it is clearly responsible.
Whilst we fully appreciate the serious challenges posed by the arrival by sea of asylum-seekers, we underline that, as the state responsible for the search and rescue area where the rescue took place, Malta is responsible for coordinating the disembarkation of the rescued migrants in a port of safety. Furthermore, Malta human rights obligations require it to ensure that all who wish to apply for asylum in Malta are able to do so. Malta should also ensure that no one is subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, whether on board the rescuing vessel or in a country to which they are sent for disembarkation.