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MSF to refuse EU funding over Turkey migration deal

Walid, his pregnant wife and two children, who fled Iraq, at a makeshift detention centre on the Greek island of Samos (Mohammad Ghannam/IRIN)

Médecins Sans Frontières has announced that it will no long accept funding from the European Union or its member states in protest at what it called “continuing attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores”.

MSF’s main bone of contention is the EU’s migration deal with Turkey, which provides financial and other incentives for Turkey to accept refugees returned from Greece. It has resulted in more than 8,000 migrants and refugees being detained on the Greek islands since late March, many of whom face deportation to Turkey.

The last straw for the medical aid NGO was the unveiling last week of a new proposal by the European Commission that could result in similar deals being made with other countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Under the “New Migration Partnership Framework”, up to 62 billion euros could be made available to leverage support for the EU’s goal of reducing migration flows from 16 countries of origin and transit, including Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.

The policy proposal refers to “positive and negative incentives” being integrated into the EU’s development policy. Countries that cooperate in managing migration flows would be rewarded, while countries that didn’t would face “consequences”.

Although the proposal has not yet been adopted, reports emerged last month that Sudan has already started cracking down on Eritrean refugees living in and transiting through the country. Eritrea has also reportedly heightened controls at its border with Sudan.  

“Once again, Europe’s main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on how efficiently they are kept away,” said Jerome Oberreit, MSF’s international secretary general, in a statement released today.


The statement noted that the EU-Turkey deal had set a dangerous precedent to other refugee hosting countries. Last month, for example, the Kenyan government pointed to the EU-Turkey deal as part of its justification for its decision to close the Dadaab complex of refugee camps and return 350,000 Somalis. 


“Deterrence policies sold to the public as humanitarian solutions have only exacerbated the suffering of people in need,” said Oberreit. “MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm.”


Although MSF is mainly privately funded, in 2015 it received 19 million euros from the EU and 37 million euros from member states.

This isn’t the only recent occasion that MSF has caused a big protest stir. It also pulled out of last month’s World Humanitarian Summit at the 11th hour, citing concerns that it wasn’t focused enough on reforming and improving emergency response.

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