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File image of the Greek island of Leros. Frontex carried out the deportation from the Greek island to Turkey in 2016. Alamy Stock Photo

Syrian family loses EU lawsuit against Frontex deportation, despite lodging asylum request

The EU General Court determined that border protection agency Frontex was not responsible for the underlying decision to remove the family, only Greece was.

A SYRIAN FAMILY deported from Greece by the EU border protection agency Frontex despite seeking asylum lost a legal fight for damages, according to an EU court ruling today.

The EU General Court determined that Frontex was not responsible for the underlying decision to remove the family, only Greece was, and that the border agency provided only “technical and operational support”.

The family therefore was “incorrect” to argue that their unlawful removal by Frontex gave rise to their damages claim of €136,000, it said.

Frontex carried out the deportation from the Greek island of Leros to Turkey in 2016 in a joint operation with Greek authorities, despite the family having lodged an asylum request that was being processed.

International law prohibits the deportation of asylum-seekers in such a situation.

The European Union experienced a mass inflow of more than 2.5 million asylum-seekers in 2015-2016, most of them Syrians fleeing the war in their country.

Numbers were subsequently greatly reduced after the EU cut a deal with Turkey to clamp down on irregular border crossings.

Greece has since taken a hardline stance against refugee arrivals and has been accused of causing deaths by having its border and coast guards push back arrivals. Athens denies the allegations.

Frontex has also been criticised by rights groups and EU lawmakers for assisting strongarm actions and for not deploying adequate resources to detect incidents and carry out sea rescues.

Lawyers for the Syrian family called the ruling “unsatisfactory”.

“They are disappointed that Frontex is not held accountable for its role in the illegal pushback they are victims of and the way they were deported,” they said in a statement.

The Syrian family, who now live in Iraq, took Greece to the European Court of Human Rights and won a “friendly settlement” from Athens, said the team from the Dutch legal firm Prakken d’Oliveira, supported by other human rights lawyers.

Frontex, in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, emphasised that the court found it was not in a position to “assess the merits of return decisions”.

It said it was putting “more safeguards” in place in an effort to try to protect migrants’ rights, and expected EU governments to ensure that deportations were carried out in line with international law.

© AFP 2023 

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