From Idomeni to Strasbourg: Refugees demand their right to have rights at the ECtHR

Strasbourg/Berlin/Frankfurt, 14 September 2016 – Eight individuals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are resisting the violation of their human rights on the route across the borders of Europe. They submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against their unlawful push-back from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the border camp Idomeni in Greece in March 2016. The claimants assert that FYROM’s practice of collective and often violent expulsions breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Pro Asyl provide support for the complaints. They see these legal proceedings as an important step in the struggle against push-backs at European borders and for refugees’ fundamental “right to have rights.” The applicants are represented by ECCHR’s cooperating attorney Carsten Gericke from Hamburg.

“The closure of the Greek-Macedonian border made legal entry into Europe via the Balkan route de facto impossible,” said ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck. “FYROM’s use of push-backs against refugees in transit violates human rights, as do the unlawful border operations conducted by Spain at the external borders of Europe.” Karl Kopp, Pro Asyl’s Spokesperson for Europe adds: “In a Europe characterized by walls and fences, the ECtHR in Strasburg offers hope that victims of systematic unlawful collective expulsion from FYROM to Greece may find a measure of justice.”

The two women and six men (names withheld for protection) 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 through improvised holes in the newly constructed border fence. The claimants had no possibility to ask for asylum or to take legal action against their summary deportation from FYROM. 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 used strategic litigation to contest the push-back practices in Europe. It also provided support for the ECtHR complaints of two individuals against Spain’s push-back practice at the border in Melilla. Beginning in 2012 Pro Asyl has documented the numerous push-back operations in the Aegean and supported 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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