Protesting 'Shameful' Refugee Policies, Doctors Without Borders Rejects EU Funds

"Faces of those the EU countries have decided not to see," Doctors Without Borders wrote on Twitter. (Photo: Mohammed Ghannam/MSF)

Protesting 'Shameful' Refugee Policies, Doctors Without Borders Rejects EU Funds

"Once again, Europe's main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on how efficiently they are kept away."

The international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced Friday that it will no longer accept funds from the European Union and its member states, in protest against the region's "shameful" response to the refugee crisis.

According to the Associated Press, "The unusual and radical step has been the subject of deep debate within the organization."

The group specifically cited the maligned EU-Turkey deal, which went into effect in April and aims to deport refugees from squalid detention centers in Greece to unsafe conditions in Turkey.

MSF previously decried the deal as "cynical," a "false solution," and "a historic abdication of [the EU's] moral and legal responsibilities." As a consequence of that agreement, MSF charges, more than 8,000 people--including hundreds of unaccompanied minors--have been stranded, "living in dire conditions in overcrowded camps, sometimes for months."

"For months MSF has spoken out about a shameful European response focused on deterrence rather than on providing people with the assistance and protection they need," said Jerome Oberreit, MSF international secretary general. "The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further, placing the very concept of 'refugee' and the protection it offers in danger."

In the last 18 months alone, MSF says it has treated an estimated 200,000 men, women, and children in Europe and on the Mediterranean Sea.

In announcing its rejection of EU funds, MSF also condemned the EU's attempt "to replicate the EU-Turkey logic across more than 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East."

As Common Dreams reported last month, the EU is working out a plan to fund the construction of detention centers and provide refugee processing equipment to various African and Middle Eastern countries in an effort to stem the flow of migrants from Africa to Europe.

MSF pointed out that among these potential partners are Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Afghanistan--four of the top 10 refugee-generating countries, according to the United Nations.

"Is Europe's only offer to refugees that they stay in countries they are desperate to flee? Once again, Europe's main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on how efficiently they are kept away," said Oberreit.

What's more, the group declared:

The EU-Turkey deal sets a dangerous precedent for other countries hosting refugees, sending a message that caring for people forced from their homes is optional and that they can purchase their way out of providing asylum. Last month, the Kenyan government cited European migration policy to justify its decision to close the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, and send its residents back to Somalia. Likewise, the deal does nothing to encourage countries surrounding Syria, already hosting millions of refugees, to open their borders to those in need.

"Europe's attempt to outsource migration control is having a domino effect, with closed borders stretching all the way back to Syria," said Oberreit. "People increasingly have nowhere to turn. Will the situation in Azaz, Syria, where 100,000 people are blocked between closed borders and front lines, become the rule, rather than the deadly exception?"

MSF received $63 million (PS44m) from the EU and its members last year. The move will not affect the charity's operations, as it is 92 percent privately funded and said it could cover the shortfall using emergency funds.

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