Human rights lawyers have launched legal action against the European Union's border and coast guard agency Frontex on behalf of two migrants. They accuse Frontex of violating their rights as asylum seekers and breaching European and international law.
The case was filed at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg by Front-Lex, Progress Lawyers Network and Greek Helsinki Monitor. It concerns A.N., a woman from Burundi and J.K., a Congolese unaccompanied minor who tried to apply for international protection on the Greek island of Lesbos last year.
The lawyers say it is the first time that Frontex has been taken before the Luxembourg-based ECJ in its 17 years of operations.
In a statement they say that the two migrants "were violently rounded up, robbed, abducted, detained, forcibly transferred back to sea, collectively expelled, and ultimately abandoned on rafts with no means of navigation, food or water."
The statement adds that the two "were victims of other ‘push-back’ operations during the attempt to find protection in the EU."
Under EU and international refugee law, individuals are entitled to apply for asylum and must not be pushed back, or sent back to where they are at risk of danger or persecution.
The court action details how 15-year-old J.K. was among a group of migrants whose phones, bags and money were allegedly confiscated by masked members of the Greek coast guard in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece in May 2020. Migrants were loaded onto a rubber raft in Turkish waters.
The incident was one of several involving J.K. Witness testimony, media reports and other evidence suggest that he and the woman allegedly suffered further abuses in late November.
Pressure on Frontex
Frontex coordinates search and rescue and border interception operations on behalf of EU member countries. The agency has rejected allegations of involvement or complicity in pushbacks. An internal Frontex investigation this year found no evidence that the agency was involved in incidents reported by a media consortium in October 2020.
The European Parliament has launched its own investigation and is expected to release its findings in coming months. The EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF, has also been investigating allegations of mismanagement at Frontex.
The AP news agency reports that it has seen a letter to the Front-Lex lawyers in which Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri rejected any claim of wrongdoing. "I am confident that the Agency has undertaken its activities in strict compliance with the applicable legal framework, including fundamental rights obligations," Leggeri wrote in the letter.