Refugees seek damages from Macedonia over expulsion

Eight refugees have filed a complaint over their forced expulsion from Macedonia back to Greece earlier this year.

Macedonian police officers try to protect border fence attacked by the refugees and migrants from the Greek side of the border
Macedonia built a razor-wire fence along the border with Greece [File: EPA]

Eight refugees have taken legal action against Macedonia for forcing them back into Greece after a mass border crossing earlier this year, according to rights groups. 

The Germany-based migrant advocacy group Pro Asyl said on Thursday it helped the refugees submit the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in France on Tuesday. 

Macedonian police fire tear gas at refugees

“They were pushed in an informal way into Greece and they did not even have a chance to ask for protection,” Karl Kopp, Pro Asyl’s spokesperson for Europe, told Al Jazeera, describing the refugees as “victims of a collective pushback operation”.  

Pro Asyl identified the claimants as two women and six men originating from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“It will be possible for them to get financial compensation, but the main idea is to prevent others from suffering the same kind of violence in the future,” Kopp said, adding, however, that the court process could take a few years. 

The German-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) also aided the refugees in submitting the complaint. 

“FYROM’s [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] use of push-backs against refugees in transit violates human rights,” Wolfgang Kaleck, the ECCHR general secretary, said in a statement released on Wednesday.

READ MORE- Refugees stuck in Idomeni: Questions but no answers

Approximately 1,500 refugees attempted to cross into Macedonia from Greece on March 14 this year before being met by forcible expulsions. 

The refugees had been stranded at the tent city of Idomeni on the Greek side of the border.

“The Macedonian military apprehended them and forced them back to Greece through improvised holes in the newly constructed border fence,” read the statement. 

“The claimants had no possibility to ask for asylum or to take legal action against their summary deportation from FYROM.”

The expulsions signalled a shift across much of Europe toward a tougher line against refugees after more than a million had crossed into the EU the previous year.

Macedonia, which built a razor-wire fence along the border with Greece, has argued that it has the right to protect its borders and denies using excessive force.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies