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LONDON: A Syrian family is suing the EU’s border agency before the European Court of Justice to seek damages for her deportation from Greece to Turkey, which came after she filed for asylum.
They say they were brought on a deportation flight by European and Greek officials five years ago, after learning they would be flown to Athens, but were taken to Turkey.
Prakken d’Oliveira, a Dutch law firm specializing in human rights cases, said on Wednesday it had filed a complaint against Frontex, the European border enforcement agency, and was asking for damages on behalf of the family. The eviction was a violation of their human rights, the company said, and Frontex exploited the robbery that carried it out.
The incident was the first case of deportation of asylum seekers recorded after the EU reached an agreement with Turkey in 2016 that explicitly stipulated that people arriving in Greece would have access to a fair asylum procedure.
“Frontex admitted that there had been human rights violations. (She) accepted that the refugees never had the chance to have their asylum claim processed, ”said Lisa-Marie Komp, one of the lawyers representing the family.
She said it was essential for the EU agency to be held accountable for its actions and added: “If it is to be given a mandate of this scope, then there should be effective possibilities. to hold him to account. And if that is not possible, it will undermine the fundamental principle of the rule of law.
“Besides the fate of the family, what is so fundamental is that this is the first time that the European Court of Justice will have the opportunity to decide whether Frontex can be held responsible. “
The action is the first of its kind brought before the Luxembourg court. It will highlight the practice of illegal refoulements and other methods that activists say deny asylum seekers their rights.
Frontex has been accused of “actively destroying” the fundamental principles on which the EU was built by participating in push-backs.
The Syrian family, who have not been named for security reasons, said they were made to board the deportation flight after filing asylum claims on the Greek island of Leros.
“I never knew I was (to be) deported to Turkey,” the 33-year-old father told reporters at the time. “The police said, ‘Leave your dinner, take your things, we’ll take you to a police station for the night and (then) tomorrow morning to Athens. “
The family, which included four children between the ages of one and seven, were forced to sit separately on the flight. They identified the representatives of the EU border agency by the insignia on the uniforms of their guards.
“They were in a very vulnerable position,” Komp said. “The treatment of the children on the flight was itself in violation of the rights of the child, enshrined in Article 24 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
“In the end, they took no action to verify whether it was legal to take this family out of Greece.”
The family, originally from the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria, now live in northern Iraq, fearing persecution in war-torn Syria if they return home.
Frontex blamed “national authorities” for the incident, arguing that its role was simply to provide “means of transport, trained escorts, translators and medical staff”.
An investigation into the incident, the results of which were published 19 months later, found that the asylum application was registered 11 days before the flight that took the family to Turkey, but was not registered on the electronic police system until a day after their deportation.
Yiannis Mouzalas, then minister in charge of Greece’s migration policy, said he ordered an investigation into the case when it became clear that “violations” had taken place.
“A refugee claim was filed and it was obvious that the process had been violated and that something illegal had happened,” he said.
Mouzalas said he was not aware of the outcome of the investigation as he later left his post, but added: “I know it was the responsibility of the relevant Greek authorities (to remove them) , not Frontex which transported them. “