Syrian family loses EU lawsuit against Frontex deportation
The European Union General Court delivered a verdict on Wednesday that a Syrian family, who has charges of wrongful deportation against the EU border control agency Frontex, lost their legal pursuit for financial compensation. The family sought damages of about 136,000 euros ($146,000), attributing Frontex responsible for their unlawful extradition.
However, according to the court’s ruling, Frontex bore no legal accountabilities for the fundamental choice of deportation. The court clarified that the border agency merely offered “technical and operational support,” and the ultimate decision was exclusively, Greece’s.
The Controversial Incident
The controversial incident hails from 2016, when Frontex deported the said family from the Greek island of Leros to Turkey. On the surface, it seemed like a regular joint operation with Greek authorities. However, the family was, at the time, in the process of lodging an asylum request.
This disputed action sparked considerable discord as international law prohibits the expulsion of asylum-seekers under such circumstances.
The Refugee Crisis, Border Control Controversies, and The EU-Turkey Agreement
The European Union saw an unprecedented influx of more than 2.5 million asylum-seekers around 2015-2016, majorly comprising Syrians fleeing the war in their homeland. The surge caused significant strain, and in response, the EU struck a deal with Turkey, aiming to curb irregular border transgressions and reducing the numbers noticeably.
Greece has since adopted a stringent stance against the arrival of refugees. Allegations of causing fatalities by forcefully pushing back arrivals on its borders led to widespread criticism. The authorities, however, vehemently deny such allegations.
Frontex has also been subjected to disapproval by human rights groups and EU lawmakers. The agency’s role in assisting forcible measures and its alleged failure to properly deploy resources for incident identification and conduct sea rescues have raised many eyebrows.
The Aftermath of the Court’s Decision
The legal representatives of the Syrian family referred to the ruling as “unsatisfactory”. Expressing disappointment over Frontex’s impunity for their role in the alleged “illegal pushback”, they announced that the family felt victimized by the method of their deportation.
The Syrian family, now residing in Iraq, previously filed a lawsuit against Greece in the European Court of Human Rights and won a “friendly settlement” from Athens, as per the team from the Dutch legal firm Prakken d’Oliveira and other supporting human rights lawyers.
Frontex’s Stand on the Decision
Responding to the verdict, Frontex stated on X (formerly known as Twitter) that the court recognized it was not in a position to “assess the merits of return decisions”. The agency revealed that it would put “more safeguards” in place to safeguard migrants’ rights. Furthermore, Frontex expects EU governments to ensure deportations align with international law.
The Way Forward
The verdict draws attention to the unambiguous responsibilities of different entities in dealing with refugee situations. As the dialogue around refugee rights and asylum policies continue, the role of all stakeholders, including nations and border agencies, will undoubtedly come under scrutiny. Further, it raises necessary questions about accountability, legislative ambiguity, and the upholding of International law principles, which are primary considerations in dealing with humanitarian crises such as these.
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