We are helping to take the shameful EU-Turkey refugee deal to court,
in a bid to save the life of one man and improve the lives of millions.
What is this campaign?
On March 20, 2016, the controversial EU-Turkey Agreement came into effect. It set out that all “new irregular migrants” – a euphemism for refugees and asylum-seekers – arriving in Greece from this date onwards would be returned to Turkey.
The EU-Turkey deal is shameful and signifies that Europe is losing its soul, fast. Europe is, in effect, bribing Turkey to allow Europe to shirk its responsibilities to refugees. It signals to the rest of the world that vulnerable men, women, and children who managed to survive the horrors of war, persecution, and a perilous journey, will have their asylum applications turned down. And then they will be deported back to Turkey, a country that the European Parliament has just censured for its civil liberties and human rights record. These desperate people will, as a result, find even more desperate, dangerous, routes to escape. Yes, the corpses will mount, the pain will multiply and it will be Europe’s doing!
But it doesn’t have to be this way. As DiEM25 we are standing behind a unique legal action that could blow this deal up, potentially improving the lives of millions of people seeking to come to Europe in desperate need.
How? By helping to save a man’s life.
This is Shabbir Iqbal
Shabbir is 40 years old, and an electrical engineer by trade. He is married with two children, aged 3 and 5. He lived in a mid-sized town in Pakistan, where he ran a car rental business.
One day last December 2015, a local group of Islamic extremists attacked Shabbir’s neighbour, a Christian. The extremists wanted to confiscate the neighbour’s home to convert it into a madrasa (religious school); Shabbir came to his defence.
This act of solidarity changed Shabbir’s life irrevocably. For helping a Christian, he was labelled a heretic and forced to flee his town. Several members of his family and close circle have now been murdered by the extremists. His wife and children have gone into hiding. If Shabbir returns home, the extremists will almost certainly try to kill him.
After a horrific journey during which his father also perished, Shabbir lives in a state of limbo in Lesvos, Greece, where he has been since March 2016. His appeals for asylum having been turned down, he is now awaiting deportation under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal. You can read more on this harrowing story in our FAQ section below and watch Yanis' account of Shabbir's experience.
Shabbir’s case could bring the whole shameful deal down
A team of volunteers in Spain and Greece, headed by the eminent Spanish former anti-corruption prosecutor Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, is working to save Shabbir. On November 29, 2016, they filed a legal action to the European Court of Justice. It’s aim: to annul the EU-Turkey Agreement and prevent Shabbir and thousands of others from being deported.
If this case is successful, it will do much more than save a man’s life: it could shatter the EU-Turkey Agreement once and for all.
Their struggle is our struggle
Refugees have no legal means to seek protection in Europe.
DiEM25 is standing behind this action to save Shabbir and topple the EU-Turkey Agreement. An Agreement which undermines further the integrity and soul of a Union that was once confident in its espousal of humanism, its proclamation of solidarity, and its pursuit of shared prosperity.
We call upon Europeans and their elected representatives to overrule the EU-Turkey Agreement and end the EU’s practice of sacrificing human lives and basic humanist principles on the alter of appeasing xenophobes and ultra-nationalists.
We call upon you to make this struggle yours as well!
What can you do?
We are deploying a series of actions aimed at pushing this campaign forward.
Please stay tuned to this page, as we will be updating it with new tasks for you to help.
This story and timeline has been corroborated by two witnesses’ sworn statements.
Who is Shabbir?
Shabbir, 40, is an electrical engineer by trade. He is married with two children, aged 3 and 5. He lived in a mid-sized town in the Punjab region of Pakistan, where he ran a car rental business.
A timeline of what happened to him:
In December 2015, a neighbour of Shabbir (a Christian) was attacked by a group of radical Wahhabi Muslims for not allowing them to confiscate his home to convert it into a madrasa (a religious school). Shabbir went outside to defend his neighbour; a fight ensued, and Shabbir’s brother was killed.
For coming to the aid of a Christian, the Wahhabi group labelled Shabbir – a Muslim – a heretic; the city’s chieftains decided that he and his family should abandon the town for the sake of their safety. Leaving behind his wife and children (who went into hiding elsewhere in Pakistan), he fled and embarked on a journey to Europe, with his father and another neighbour’s two sons (Sarfraz, aged 17 and Bilal, aged 20), who had also been expelled from town for hiding Shabbir in their house.
Shabbir’s father died of exhaustion soon after they reached Turkey. The trio continued their journey through Turkey. Once there, Sarfraz was kidnapped by a local gang. Since the family could not pay the ransom, the gang beat the boy to death.
At the end of March 2016, Shabbir and Bilal arrived in the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos. The EU-Turkey deal had just come into effect, putting the two at risk of deportation back to Turkey.
On June 10, as Shabbir was undergoing psychiatric treatment in Moria for all that he had experienced, his other brother who lives in Dubai travelled back to Pakistan to visit family. The local Wahhabi extremists thought he was Shabbir and killed him, along with his 9- and 12-year-old sons and one cousin.
Since arriving in Greece, Shabbir has made repeated requests for asylum – all of these have been turned down. If he is intercepted, he will be deported. In theory, at any time the Greek police could detain him and deport him.
He cannot return to his town as he will almost certainly be killed. Shabbir’s wife is extremely concerned for the safety of her and the children – to survive, she depends on a small monthly donation from a volunteer who is part of this action.
The Legal Team
Coordinated by Carlos Jiménez Villarejo, Shabbir’s legal action was set into motion with the assistance of Harry Ladis, an experienced criminal attorney who is also specialized in Human Rights Law. Based in Greece, Ladis works between Athens and Thessaloniki representing victims of political repression, torture and discrimination before the European Court of Human Rights.
Why is DiEM25 standing behind it?
We embrace and stand behind this initiative because:
>> It is fully in line with DiEM25’s manifesto
>> It reflects our stance on Refugees and Migration as stated in our Vienna Assembly of last May, “Europe’s Duty to the Refugees: Europe’s Duty to Itself”
>> It conforms with DiEM25’s policy work, as outlined in our Progressive Agenda for Europe, and
>> It is a magnificent example of our principle of “constructive disobedience” – aiming to bring down the EU-Turkey deal as a precursor to fixing the EU’s broken migration system by making the migration pillar of our Progressive Agenda for Europe become official policy.
Open Letter to EU institutions to #StopTheDeal
FAO: Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
Joseph Muscat, EU Presidency
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director, Frontex
Jose Carreira, Executive Director, EASO
January 19, 2017
Dear Madam, Dear Sir,
On November 29, the European Court of Justice was presented with an Action for Annulment on behalf of Mr. Shabbir Iqbal, a refugee who, after a perilous journey, is currently in Greece at risk of deportation.
The Action asked the Court to review the legality of the March 18, 2016, EU-Turkey Agreement (the act), including the provisions therein for the “returns” to Turkey of all “irregular migrants or asylum seekers” arriving on the “Greek islands” after March 20, 2016. The action seeks to annul the act in its entirety.
We, the undersigned, believe the ECJ must rule in favour of this Action, not only on the grounds of its solid legal merits and substantial supporting evidence, but also because the members of our Union’s highest Court must ensure that all laws and treaties fully comply with European and International Law in both letter and spirit.
With this Action, the Court is being asked a simple question: Does the EU-Turkey Agreement serve its purported aim “to end irregular migration from Turkey to the EU”? Or is it a perverse and surreptitious mechanism for EU member states to neglect their responsibilities toward refugees and asylum seekers reaching our shores, turning their backs on human life and violating both the letter and spirit upon which our common space was founded?
We submit the same question to you, the representatives of the EU’s highest institutions, and appeal that you step forward and stop this infamous ‘Agreement’ at once.
Of the many proceedings the ECJ is asked to hear and determine, this might be one the most critical ever: Its decision will have far-reaching consequences for the future of our Union and the credibility of its institutions.
Thus, we urge you to act immediately to stop this Agreement. We call upon you to restore the EU’s humanist roots, its obligation to respect and protect all migrants’ human rights, irrespective of their status, and to put an end to unnecessary suffering by acting before the ECJ overrules your regretful pact with Turkey.
Renata Ávila, Guatemalan human rights and technology lawyer
Walter Baier, Austrian economist
Anthony Barnett, British writer, founder of openDemocracy
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Italian writer, media theorist and media activist
Boris Buden, Croatian philosopher, translator and cultural theorist
Berardo Carboni, Italian director and scriptwriter
Nessa Childers, Irish MEP
Noam Chomsky, American linguist, Professor emeritus of linguistics, MIT
Cécile Duflot, French politician; former Minister of Territorial Equality and Housing
Brian Eno, English musician, visual artist and political activist
Marcelo Expósito, Spanish artist, political activist and MP
James K. Galbraith, American economist and author
Susan George, French-American global justice campaigner
Srećko Horvat, Croatian philosopher and political activist
Katja Kipping, chairperson, German Left Party
Caroline Lucas, co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
Lorenzo Marsili, Italian writer, political activist
David McWilliams, Irish economist, writer, broadcaster and journalist
Sandro Mezzadra, Italian writer and associate professor of political theory
Rasmus Nordqvist, Danish MP
Gerardo Pisarello, First Deputy Mayor of Barcelona
Saskia Sassen, Dutch-American sociologist
Thomas Seibert, German philosopher, author, political activist
Richard Sennett, American sociologist, centennial professor of sociology, LSE
Elif Shafak, Turkish novelist, columnist, speaker and scholar
Cristina Soler-Savini, university research fellow, Paris
Barbara Spinelli, Italian MEP
Igor Stokfiszewski, Polish researcher, journalist and activist
Danae Stratou, Greek visual and installation artist
Yanis Varoufakis, economist and former Greek finance minister
Marie-Christine Vergiat, French MEP
Vivienne Westwood, British fashion designer, environmental activist
Agnieszka Wiśniewska, Polish activist, author
Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian-born philosopher and psychoanalyst