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Syrian refugee sues EU border agency for abandoning him at sea

March 18, 2022 at 3:47 pm

European Council President Charles Michel (C) and Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte (R) meet officers of the Frontex mission as they visit the Padvarionys border post close to Belarus in Medininkai, Lithuania, on July 6, 2021 [PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images]

A Syrian is suing the European Union border and coastguard agency, Frontex, for its alleged complicity in illegally pushing back the refugee into Turkey, reported Al-Jazeera.

The Front-Lex legal association, which is representing Alaa Hamoudi, announced yesterday that the plaintiff will be claiming $550,000 from Frontex for the incident he suffered by the Greek coastguards between 28 and 29 April in 2020.

Following Hamoudi’s arrival on the Greek island of Samos with around 20 other asylum seekers, according to Front-Lex, they were loaded by Greek authorities onto a crowded inflatable dinghy and stranded at sea for 17 hours, while a Frontex plane monitored the situation at the time.

Forced return of refugees or asylum seekers in these circumstances, a tactic used by authorities in which asylum seekers are forced back across the border, often violently, despite entering the country, constitute “refoulement”, a serious breach of international law.

An October 2020 investigation conducted by the open-source analysis group, Bellingcat, along with the journalist cooperative, Lighthouse Reports, and several media outlets, determined that Frontex was complicit in refoulements in Greek waters.

READ: Turkey calls on EU, international community to protect refugees amid Greece push back policies

The findings led to several inquiries in the EU about Frontex and its practices.

However, a working group set up by Frontex’s own management board denied any “indications” of Hamoudi’s incident.

Hamoudi, currently residing in Turkey, submitted his lawsuit on 10 March, according to the European Court of Justice website.

Meanwhile, the United Nations last month, raised alarm against push backs at European borders. There are “increasing number of incidents of violence and serious human rights violations against refugees and migrants,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

The UNHCR has recorded almost 540 incidents, where refugees have been informally returned by Greece since the beginning of 2020.