Refu­gees from Syria, Iraq and Afgha­ni­stan demand their right to have rights

A step for­ward in the legal strugg­le against push-back prac­ti­ces in Euro­pe: The Euro­pean Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Stras­bourg is exami­ning the lar­ge-sca­le coll­ec­ti­ve expul­si­ons of refu­gees from the For­mer Yugo­slav Repu­blic of Mace­do­nia (FYROM) to the bor­der camp Ido­me­ni in Greece in March 2016. To this end, the ECtHR com­mu­ni­ca­ted the com­plaints of eight appli­cants from Syria, Iraq and Afgha­ni­stan to the Mace­do­ni­an govern­ment. The refu­gees had sub­mit­ted indi­vi­du­al com­plaints in Sep­tem­ber 2016 with the sup­port of the Euro­pean Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tio­nal and Human Rights (ECCHR) and PRO ASYL. They assert that FYROM’s prac­ti­ce of unlawful expul­si­ons is vio­la­ting the Euro­pean Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights. The Mace­do­ni­an govern­ment must now sub­mit a writ­ten respon­se by 18 May 2017. Civil socie­ty orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and uni­ver­si­ties are also per­mit­ted to inter­ve­ne with legal observations.

»With the push-backs – whe­ther in Ido­me­ni or curr­ent­ly at the bor­der bet­ween Ser­bia and Hun­ga­ry – the govern­ments in Euro­pe are sus­pen­ding basic human rights«, said ECCHR Gene­ral Secre­ta­ry Wolf­gang Kaleck. »Refu­gees and migrants have a right to have rights. The Ido­me­ni case is a chan­ce for the Court to uphold this prin­ci­ple.« Karl Kopp, Euro­pe-Spo­kesper­son of PRO ASYL, also wel­co­med the rela­tively quick decis­i­on to com­mu­ni­ca­te the case: »The push-backs in Ido­me­ni vio­la­ted the pro­hi­bi­ti­on of coll­ec­ti­ve expul­si­on and the right to access an effec­ti­ve reme­dy. Neither Mace­do­nia nor other Euro­pean count­ries can jus­ti­fy the­se prac­ti­ces based on an alle­ged ‘sta­te of emergency’.«

The appli­cants, two women and six men, crossed the Greek-Mace­do­ni­an bor­der along­side appro­xi­m­ate­ly 1,500 other refu­gees on 14 March 2016. The Mace­do­ni­an mili­ta­ry appre­hen­ded them and forced them back to Greece. The clai­mants had no pos­si­bi­li­ty to ask for asyl­um or to take legal action against the ope­ra­ti­on. The­se push-backs car­ri­ed out wit­hout any con­side­ra­ti­on of indi­vi­du­al cir­cum­s­tances vio­la­te Artic­le 4 Pro­to­col 4 (pro­hi­bi­ti­on of coll­ec­ti­ve expul­si­on) and Artic­le 13 (right to an effec­ti­ve reme­dy) of the Euro­pean Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights.

Sin­ce 2014 ECCHR has pur­sued stra­te­gic liti­ga­ti­on to con­test the push-back prac­ti­ces in Euro­pe. ECCHR is also assis­ting with the ECtHR com­plaints of two indi­vi­du­als against Spain’s push-back prac­ti­ce at the bor­der in Mel­il­la. Sin­ce 2012 Pro Asyl has been docu­men­ting the num­e­rous push-back ope­ra­ti­ons in the Aege­an Sea and assis­ted the sur­vi­vors of the Farm­a­ko­ni­si bor­der sur­veil­lan­ce ope­ra­ti­on befo­re the ECtHR.


ECCHR, Ana­bel Ber­me­jo – Tel.: + 49 (0) 172 – 587 00 87, E‑Mail: bermejo@ecchr.eu

PRO ASYL, Karl Kopp – Tel.: +49 (0)174 3384762, E‑Mail: presse@proasyl.de

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