MSF rejects EU funding in protest at refugee deal

Aid group could lose €60m but says it cannot take money from countries that are ‘pushing away’ people and their suffering

The aid group Médecins Sans Frontières will no longer take money from any member of the EU, including Britain, in protest at the way Europe has responded to the refugee crisis.

The decision could see the organisation miss out on €60m (£47m), the amount MSF was given by EU members, EU institutions and Norway in 2015.

MSF says it can no longer take money from countries and institutions that are “intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. This decision will take effect immediately and will apply to MSF’s projects worldwide.”

In particular, MSF has criticised the EU-Turkey deportation deal, the agreement created in March that is meant to ensure the deportation of almost all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Greece, and which has seen thousands of people stranded in legal limbo in squalid conditions on the Greek islands.

MSF has also condemned Europe’s ongoing attempts to pay dictatorships in Africa to stem migration flows before they reach Europe. MSF says these moves risk stranding refugees in precarious conditions – just as the EU-Turkey deal has contributed to the trapping of thousands inside war-torn Syria.

“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,” Jérôme Oberreit, MSF’s international secretary general, said. “The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of ‘refugee’ and the protection it offers in danger.”

Jérôme Oberreit, MSF’s international secretary general.
Jérôme Oberreit, MSF’s international secretary general. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

He added: “Deterrence policies sold to the public as humanitarian solutions have only exacerbated the suffering of people in need. There is nothing remotely humanitarian about these policies. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged.

“MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm. We are calling on European governments to shift priorities: rather than maximising the number of people they can push back, they must maximise the number they welcome and protect.”

MSF operates worldwide, but in the past 12 months has stepped up humanitarian operations in Europe due to the fallout from the refugee crisis. Its rescue missions in the southern Mediterranean have saved more than 24,000 people in the past two years.

MSF’s decision is not expected to jeopardise its operations as 90% of its funds come from private sources.

The move follows MSF’s recent decision to withdraw from the UN-run world humanitarian summit, which it said was a “fig leaf of good intentions” and would achieve little.


Patrick Kingsley Migration correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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