17/06/2016 12:43 BST

MSF Turns Back On EU Funding Worth Millions Over 'Damaging Immigration Policies'

'MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm'

A charity at the forefront of the migrant crisis has turned its back on the European Union and its member states in a multi-million pound stand against its "damaging deterrence policies". 

The organisation announced its "bold" stand on Twitter on Friday and was applauded for sending "this message to the world", although some users were concerned the move would adversely impact on the work the charity does. 

In 2015 alone, Doctors Without Borders, which has provided assistance to people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since 2002, received £15 million in funding from EU institutions, while member states provided a further £29m - a total of £44m. 

GABRIEL BOUYS via Getty Images
Doctors Without Borders, who are pictured above assisting in a rescue mission in the Mediterranean sea, has turned its back on all EU funding 

One person wrote: "I commend the fundamental principle but please don't cut off the nose to spite the face". Another said: "Formerly great charity MSF turns in pro-migrant pressure group, sad."

MSF was quick to reassure its supporters that none of its patients would be affected as it would use emergency funds to keep its projects going. The decision will take effect immediately and apply worldwide, it said. 

Explaining the stand, the charity, also known as MSF, said the decision was also in defiance of the EU's "continued attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores".


MSF said three months into the EU-Turkey deal "which European governments are hailing as a success", people in need of protection - families who have fled war zones, and whom Europe has "legislated out of sight" - are left "counting its true human cost". More than 8,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, had been left stranded on Greek Islands as a "direct consequence", the charity said. 

It added that the refugees had been living in "dire conditions", in overcrowded camps, for months, where they fear a forced return to Turkey, "yet are deprived of essential legal aid, their one defense against collective expulsion".

MSF's international secretary general, Jerome Oberreit, said the charity had spoken out about the "shameful" European response to the crisis for months which focused on "deterrence rather than providing people with the assistance and protection they need".

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

Darrin Zammit Lupi / Reuters
MSF is at the forefront of charities helping to rescue migrants crossing the Mediterranean

MSF said a deal made by the European Commission last week again focused on keeping refugees from our shores. The commission proposed to replicate the "EU-Turkey logic" across more than 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East in deals that would impose trade and development aid sanctions on countries that do not stem migration to Europe, or facilitate forcible returns, and reward those that do. The charity said potential partners included four of the "top ten refugee generating countries" - Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Orberreit said: “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."

MSF argues that 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 buy their way out of providing asylum".


As an example, it cited the Kenyan Government last month referencing the European migration policy in its decision to close the world's largest refugee camp, Dedaab, and send its residents back to Somalia. 

“Europe’s attempt to outsource migration control is having a domino effect, with closed borders stretching all the way back to Syria. People increasingly have nowhere to turn,” Oberreit said.

“Will the situation in Azaz where 100,000 people are blocked between closed borders and front lines become the rule, rather than the deadly exception?"

MSF said while there were "undoubtedly needs" in Turkey - a country said to host three million Syrian refugees - the reported £78m in humanitarian aid agreed in the EU-Turkey deal was "negotiated as a reward for border control promises, rather than being based solely on needs".

MSF said this "instrumentalisation of humanitarian aid is unacceptable".

Oberreit said "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,” he said. 

“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 maximizing the number of people they can push back, they must maximize the number they welcome and protect.”

In the last 18 months MSF medics have treated an estimated 200,000 men, women and children in Europe and on the Mediterranean Sea. The organisation is currently caring for refugees and migrants in Greece, Serbia, France, Italy and on the Mediterranean as well as in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.