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First Ever Case vs. Frontex: Terminate Operation in Greece

Court of Justice of the European Union, May 2021

In May 2021, for the first time in the history of the agency, a legal action against Frontex was submitted to the Court of Justice of the EU for human rights violations. 

The legal action against Frontex was submitted on behalf of two asylum seekers – an unaccompanied minor and a woman – who, while seeking asylum on EU soil (Lesbos), were violently rounded up, assaulted, robbed, abducted, detained, forcibly transferred back to sea, collectively expelled, and ultimately abandoned on rafts with no means of navigation, food or water. The Applicants were also victims of other ‘push-back’ operations during their attempts to seek protection in the EU, during which a friend of one of the Applicants drowned to death whilst European officials were watching. His body was never recovered. 


The case, filed in collaboration with Greek Helsinki Monitor, Progressive Lawyers Network and Lesbos Legal Center, requested the Court of Justice of the EU to determine that Frontex failed to terminate its operations in the Aegean Sea, as EU Law commands, despite serious, systematic, and widespread violations of fundamental rights related to the Agency’s activities.

Notwithstanding undisputed and overwhelming evidence for serious and persisting violations of fundamental rights, Frontex and its Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, have failed to terminate the Agency’s activities in the Aegean Sea, in a flagrant infringement of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the Frontex Regulation. 


Frontex and Greece’s policy aims to stem ‘migration’ at all costs. This systematic and widespread attack against asylum seekers breaches, inter alia, the right to asylum, the prohibitions on refoulement, collective expulsions and torture. 


Omer Shatz and Iftach Cohen from front-LEX: “We watched videos showing the worst crimes that humanity has imagined and outlawed. We watched the Director of Frontex, Leggeri, telling the EU Parliament and Commission that what we see in these videos is actually not happening. But 10,000 victims attest: these crimes are being committed, on a daily basis, on EU territory, by an EU agency. The EU Court is responsible for protecting EU fundamental rights law. To date, the Court has never reviewed the conduct of Frontex nor provided remedy for its countless victims. We trust the Court to hear the victims, to see what everyone sees, to hold the EU border agency to account, and to restore the Rule of Law over EU lands and seas.”


7 April 2022 - CJEU Ruling - 1st Legal Avenue Closed, 2nd Opened! 

*** The Court Dismissed the Application Based on Procedural Grounds & Closed the 1st Legal Avenue Available to Hold Frontex to Account (Art. 265 TFEU). But the Ruling Opened the Way for the 2nd Legal Avenue (Art. 263 TFEU), Expanding the Access of Individual Victims & Enabling front-LEX to File the Follow-up Case. ***

The judgement in SS and ST v. Frontex, the 1st ever case brought against the Agency by front-LEX, closed the first procedure that is formally open to asylees seeking to access justice (legal action for Frontex’s failure to act – Art. 265 TFEU). But the Court accepted front-LEX’s argument, that to avoid accountability gaps, individual victims are allowed to instead request the annulment of Frontex’s refusal to comply with its human rights obligations (action for annulment – Art. 263 TFEU). This important ruling enabled front-LEX to file another legal action against the Agency for failure to act, which, in case of another negative definition of position by Frontex, could now be challenged as an action for annulment (s. case T-600/22).

front-LEX will continue its litigation campaign and probe out the new legal avenue which the CJEU has opened to hold Frontex to account for its ongoing border crimes.

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