MSF rejects EU funds over 'shameful' migrant policy

AFP , Friday 17 Jun 2016

EU deal
A refguee holds a message, 'Thank you EU for closing the border' during a protest asking for the opening of borders at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 18, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Aid group Doctors Without Borders said on Friday that it would no longer take funds from the EU in protest at its "shameful" policies on the migration crisis including a deal with Turkey.

The charity, more widely known by its French acronym MSF, received 56 million euros ($63 million) from European Union institutions and the 28 member states last year.

"MSF announces today that we will no longer take funds from the EU and its Member States in protest at their shameful deterrence policies and their intensification of efforts to push people and their suffering back from European shores," the group said in a statement.

The group singled out for criticism the EU's deal with Turkey in March to stem the biggest flow of migrants into the continent since World War II.

"For months MSF has spoken out about a shameful European response focused on deterrence rather than providing people with the assistance and protection they need," Jerome Oberreit, international secretary general of MSF, told a press conference.

"The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of 'refugee' and the protection it offers in danger."

Under the Turkey deal, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees landing in the Greek islands, and to crack down on people smuggling over the Aegean Sea.

In exchange, the EU said it would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every Syrian that Ankara takes back from Greece.

Turkey was meanwhile offered visa-free access, increased aid and speeded up EU accession talks if it met certain conditions, including changes to Ankara's anti-terrorism laws.

MSF said 8,000 people including hundreds of unaccompanied minors had been left stranded in the Greek islands by the deal.

Oberreit also criticised a proposal last week to make similar deals with African and Middle Eastern countries.

He added: "We cannot accept funding from the EU or the Member States while at the same time treating the victims of their polices. It's that simple."

MSF said it received 19 million euros from EU institutions and 37 million euros from member states in 2015, amounting to eight percent of its funding.

It added that its activities are 90 percent privately funded.

"We are looking for other funding channels," MSF migration expert Aurelie Ponthieu told the press conference. "We are not cutting down programmes."

The charity said its medics had treated 200,000 men, women and children in the Mediterranean and in Europe in the last 18 months. It also received 6.8 million euros from Norway, which is not part of the EU.

Europe has struggled to deal with a wave of more than one million refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in Syria, the wider Middle East and Africa since the start of 2015.

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