Syrian families held in Greece sue Ireland, EU over rights breaches

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Case says migration deal, which allows for return of migrants to Turkey, goes against European law.

Members of two Syrian families detained in Greece after fleeing the beseiged city of Aleppo have taken an unprecedented action in the Irish courts against the European Council, EU and Ireland over alleged breaches of their human rights.

The core claim of the families is that the EU-Turkey deal on migration agreed on March 18th by the European Council – the 28 EU Heads of State including Taoiseach Enda Kenny – was made outside the EC’s powers and breaches EU law. The deal allows Greece return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants” arriving there since March 20th.

That deal, and Ireland’s sanctioning of it, is incompatible with Ireland’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and breaches various EU Treaties, including the Treaty on Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (CFREU), they claim.

The plaintiffs are a married couple, Mr and Mrs D, their two daughters aged 10 and 15 (a son is in Germany), and Mr S and his 13-year-old daughter (his wife and an other child are in Germany).

They say they are entitled, under the EU Dublin III regulations of 2013, to be transferred to Germany to join their family members who have secured international protection. They claim they are unlawfully prevented doing so because of the EU-Turkey deal.

They have been detained in Greece since March 20th when they arrived with 58 people in a rubber dinghy from Turkey following a dangerous journey during which, they allege, they witnessed the “push-back” and killing of Syrian asylum seekers by Turkish forces.

The case came before the High Court on Monday via applications by the plaintiffs for a preliminary trial of EU law issues and/or to decide if issues should be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Counsel for the respondents said they had no instructions to give the undertaking and the State intended to apply to have the action dismissed on grounds Ireland is not the appropriate forum for it.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan adjourned the pre-trial matters to November 22nd.

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