An extended Syrian family detained in Greece after fleeing Aleppo is taking the European Council and Ireland to Irish Courts. Their main argument is that Turkey is not, in fact, a safe country and the EU-Turkey deal violates EU law.

On Monday, an Irish Court gave the family’s legal team a preliminary hearing. The tribunal must now decide whether to refer their case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

The family

The extended family has two daughters, aged 10 and 15 and it is stranded in Greece. They are currently in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Leros, housed in a building for the mentally ill. Their passports are apparently held by Greek authorities; their children cannot go to school; the mother is waking up at nights unable to cope with the stress.

The family arrived on March 20, 2016, in Greece. They were on a rubber dinghy with 58 people; they claim they saw a “push-back” of refugees by Turkish forces as they tried to pass across. They have applied for asylum, but are not informed as to how their application is progressing.

Their third son made it to Germany and where he lives with his wife and 13-year old daughter. The family wants to be reunited in Germany, under the 2013 Dublin III regulations and they are prevented from doing so by the EU-Turkish deal. The deal declares Turkey “a safe country, ” and their application for international protection to the Greek authorities is likely to be rejected.

Legal Argument

Their main legal argument of the family is that the EU-Turkey deal on migration agreed on March 18, 2016, by the European Council – with the agreement of the Irish Prime Minister – is beyond the scope of the EC’s powers and breaches EU law.

The reason is simple: neither Greece nor Turkey can guarantee the family will not suffer inhuman or degrading treatment.

The EU-Turkey agreement allows Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants” that have arrived there since March 20th.

According to the plaintiffs, Ireland is in breach of international conventions it has signed, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (CFREU). Article 4 of the CFREU stipulates that asylum seekers cannot be deported if there is a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment.

The family also claims that Turkey does not apply the provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention to Syrian refugees and, therefore, Turkish asylum law is not compatible with EU asylum policy.