BRUSSELS: A Syrian who says he was illegally pushed back into Turkey by Greek authorities is suing the European Union border agency Frontex for alleged complicity.
The Front-Lex legal association, which is representing the plaintiff Alaa Hamoudi, made the announcement on Thursday.
Hamoudi’s lawsuit was lodged on March 10, according to the European Court of Justice website.
Hamoudi is claiming $550,000 from Frontex for action he said the Greek coastguard took on between April 28 and 29 in 2020.
Front-Lex said that, after Hamoudi arrived on the Greek island of Samos with about 20 other asylum seekers, they were loaded by Greek authorities onto a crowded inflatable dinghy and abandoned at sea for 17 hours.
A Frontex plane surveilled the situation at the time, alleged Hamoudi, who now resides in Turkey.
Such an act, if proven, could constitute “refoulement” – the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers, which is illegal under international law binding on all countries.
Frontex, the EU’s biggest agency, with a budget of $832m this year, has been helping the Greek coastguard monitor the Greek side of the maritime border with Turkey.
An October 2020 investigation carried out by the open-source analysis group Bellingcat, along with the journalist cooperative Lighthouse Reports and several media outlets, including Der Spiegel, determined that Frontex was complicit in refoulements in Greek waters.
The findings triggered several inquiries in the EU about Frontex and its practices.
However, a working group set up by Frontex’s own management board released a conclusion that there were “no indications” of Hamoudi’s incident reported by those outlets.
In February, the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF sent conclusions from its own investigations to Frontex’s board, but those have so far been kept under a cloak of confidentiality.