#EUTurkey: Médecins Sans Frontières will no longer take funds from European Union

20131008PHT21745_originalMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has announced today (17 June) that they will no longer take funds from the European Union and member states, in opposition to what they perceive as damaging deterrence policies and intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. The decision takes immediate effect and will apply to MSF’s projects worldwide.

Three months into the EU-Turkey deal, which European governments are claiming as a success, people in need of protection are left counting its true human cost. On the Greek Islands, more than 8,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, have been stranded as a direct consequence of the EU-Turkey deal. They have been living in dire conditions, in overcrowded camps, sometimes for months. They fear a forced return to Turkey yet are deprived of essential legal aid, their one defence against collective expulsion. The majority of these families, whom Europe has legislated out of sight, have fled conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The European Commission recently hailed the EU-Turkey deal as a success. European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said: “The EU-Turkey Statement is delivering results: migrants see that it is not worth risking their lives on smugglers’ boats and we are on track to contract €1 billion of projects under the Refugee Facility by the end of this summer. But now is not the moment to sit back. We need to fully implement all elements of the Statement. This includes stepping up resettlement and increasing Greece’s capacity to address the humanitarian situation and deal with asylum applications in line with EU law. The Turkish authorities also need to complete the implementation of the visa liberalization road map.”

MSF say that the EU-Turkey deal places the very concept of “refugee” and the protection it offers in danger. Médecins Sans Frontières International Secretary General Jerome Oberreit said: “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. Once again, Europe’s main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on how efficiently they are kept away.”

MSF also object to the European Commission’s proposal to replicate the EU-Turkey logic across more than 16 countries in Africa and the Middle East. These deals would impose trade and development aid cuts on countries that do not stem migration to Europe or facilitate forcible returns, rewarding those that do.

MSF say that since the agreement between Europe and Turkey made on 18 March, Greece has turned refugee camps into detention camps. Refugees are sorted and wait to be sent back to Turkey for those who came after 20 March. 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. Last month, the Kenyan Government cited European migration policy to justify their decision to close the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, sending 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. People increasingly have nowhere to turn,” said Oberreit. “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?”

The EU-Turkey deal’s financial package includes one billion euros in humanitarian aid. While acknowledging that their are undoubtedly needs in Turkey, a country which currently hosts close to three million Syrian refugees, this aid has been negotiated as a reward for border control promises, rather than being based solely on needs.

“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,” said Oberreit. “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.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Developing countries, EU, European Commission, Politics, World

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