At the beginning of this week, we asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene with an urgent measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court to prevent the pushback of four asylum-seekers from Greek territory (Aegean islands).
In reply to our request, the Court has issued a provisional decision asking the Greek Government for information about the allegations of pushback and imposing that first-aid assistance be immediately provided to the asylum-seekers.
In fact – as it often happens in such cases – the four persons had been forced to hide for three days without access to food, water and shelter, for fear of being subjected to a violent pushback.
Their fear was well-founded, as they have been subjected to pushback operations from Greek territory 22 times already,both via land and via sea, each time suffering violence and ill-treatments at the hands of Greek authorities. The experience of the four asylum-seekers is sadly consonant with that of Parvin, the Iranian refugee severely beaten, secretly detained and forcibly returned from Greece six times (both via land and sea) who recently filed a complaint against Greece before the UN Human Rights Committee (https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/bringing-greek-push-backs-to-justice/)
On the same day, the European Court issued a decision with the same content in response to an emergency Rule 39 request filed in similar circumstances by the Legal Centre Lesvos.
We welcome the Court’s decisions as an important step forward; at the same time, we regret to report that during the time it took for the Court to issue the decisions, three of the four applicants represented by Aegean Boat Report have been subjected to a violent and life-threatening pushback, in the course of which they have also endured unlawful detention.
In the case followed by Legal Centre Lesvos, while those included in the request were eventually registered in Greece, an estimated 8 other people who arrived on the same boat still have not been registered as having arrived in Greece, and were likely subject to an illegal expulsion to Turkey.
8 people found and rescued outside Foca, Turkey by the Turkish coast guard, amongst them 2 women and 5 children.
For the applicants who have been pushed back before the European Court reached a decision, the option remains open to ask for compensation for the violation of human rights that they have suffered.
Three of the four applicants currently in a military facility in Cesme, Turkey.
It must not be forgotten that provisional measures adopted by the European Court of Human Rights under Rule39 of the Rules of Court are the only way for asylum-seekers and migrants to benefit from an effective protection of their rights against pushbacks perpetrated by Greek authorities.
We do hope that this decisions will be a first step on the path of a better protection of the right to life and dignity of all persons reaching the Aegean islands, and that in future cases the Court will be able to answer more swiftly to similar requests.