The case was brought by Syrian nationals, including children, who arrived on the Greek islands in the Aegean in October 2016, seeking international protection. Following unsuccessful attempts to apply for asylum on the Greek islands, they were promptly returned through a joint return operation organized and executed by Frontex and Greece, ultimately ending up in Turkey and later relocating to Iraq.The applicants argued that Frontex, through the joint return operation, significantly violated its obligations concerning the protection of their fundamental rights under the EU Charter. The 2016 Frontex Regulations, Frontex SOPs and Code of conduct violations were invoked. The Charter rights encompassed human dignity, the right to asylum, the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition of collective expulsion, and the rights of the child. Seeking compensation, the applicants invoked Article 340 TFEU, also enshrined in Article 41(3) of the Charter, for both material and non-material damages resulting from Frontex’s failure to adhere to its fundamental rights obligations. They also sought redress for the fear, anguish, and suffering endured during the removal process and the perilous onward journey to Iraq.
The EU General Court dismissed the claim, asserting that Frontex, lacking the authority to assess the merits of return decisions or applications for international protection, could not be directly responsible for the alleged damages suffered. Consequently, the Court ruled that the EU agency cannot be held liable for any damage associated with the removal of the applicants to Turkey. The General Court framed the central issue as one of causation, opting for judicial economy, and did not delve into considerations of attribution of conduct or responsibility in its reasoning.