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Aid group Doctors Without Borders rejects EU funds over Turkey migrant deal

Published 17/06/2016

Doctors Without Borders works to rescue migrants and refugees from boats in distress in the Mediterranean. (AP)
Doctors Without Borders works to rescue migrants and refugees from boats in distress in the Mediterranean. (AP)

Medical aid charity Doctors Without Borders has said it will no longer seek European Union funding in protest against the EU's migrant deal with Turkey.

Doctors Without Borders' secretary general Jerome Oberreit said the organisation "will no longer request funds from the EU and its member states".

The EU money added up to around 46 million euro (£36 million) in 2015, about 8% of the organisation's total budget.

Mr Oberreit said the group still plans to keep working in Greece and Turkey and will seek money from other sources to keep its projects going.

"The EU deal is the latest in a long line of policies that go against the values and the principles that enable assistance to be provided," Mr Oberreit told reporters in Brussels.

EU member states have tried to persuade Turkey to stop hundreds of thousands of migrants from coming and take back thousands more. Almost 3 million refugees are sheltering in Turkey, only around 10% of them in government-funded shelters.

The EU-Turkey agreement came into effect on March 20. Under it, all migrants traveling from Turkey to the Greek islands will be sent back unless they qualify for asylum in Greece. For every Syrian migrant who returns, the EU has offered to directly resettle a Syrian refugee already there in a European country.

Europe has offered incentives to convince Turkey to crack down, including up to 6 billion euro (£4.74 billion) in funds for Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and fast-track EU membership talks.

Non-governmental organisations and even UN agencies have expressed concern about the legal and moral implications of the deal.

Mr Oberreit said Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, is refusing to work in partnership with Europe because the EU's effort "is not aimed at providing for those most in need. It is aimed at ... border control".

The EU's executive Commission, which provided MSF with around 15 million euro (£11.8 million) last year, said the organisation had not asked for European funding for projects in Turkey so no work there would be affected.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas added that "the suspension will have no impact on ongoing EU humanitarian projects implemented by MSF in other parts of the world".

MSF noted that it would honour all ongoing projects with EU funding but not seek European institution or government money for future projects around the world.

Belgium, which donates 5 million euro (£3.9 million) each year to MSF, and Sweden expressed regret over the move.

Belgian development minister Alexander De Croo said his country and MSF had always cooperated well on issues like the crisis in Syria or the deadly Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Mr De Croo said he "hopes that in the interests of millions of people in need, constructive collaboration will be possible again".

Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallstrom told the country's TT news agency: "It is regrettable. MSF's work makes a big difference.

"We share the concern that humanitarian principles are weakened, such as humanitarian organisations do not get access in countries like Syria."

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From Belfast Telegraph