BRUSSELS — Doctors Without Borders condemned the European Union’s treatment of refugees arriving on its borders and will reject millions in funding in protest of the EU’s policies.
The NGO, renowned for its life-saving services in war zones and countries facing humanitarian crisis, will turn away about $63 million in annual aid from EU member states and institutions, according to a June 17 announcement.
“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,” said Jerome Oberreit, international secretary general for Doctors Without Borders, referring to the organization by the acronym of its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières. “The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of ‘refugee’ and the protection it offers in danger.”
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring into the EU as a result of the Syrian civil war and other conflicts across the Middle East and Northern Africa. And amid this influx, isolationist conservative political movements are gaining in power throughout EU member states.
A deal forged on March 20 allows Greece to return all refugees which arrive illegally by boat on its borders with Turkey, in return for establishing new, legal methods for asylum seekers to reach Europe. Oberreit sharply criticized this deal, accusing the EU of being more interested in hiding the humanitarian crisis than solving it. He wrote:
“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.”
Oberreit said the NGO would continue to refuse funds until the EU opens its borders to those in need again:
“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.”
Many other human rights advocates and foreign policy analysts have criticized the deal. In a commentary published in March, Elizabeth Collett, European director of Migration Policy Institute, accused the EU of turning away from its core principles. She wrote:
“To achieve its self-imposed goal—a significant reduction in arrivals and an increase in returns to Turkey—policymakers will have to drastically cut legal corners, potentially violating EU law on issues such as detention and the right to appeal. But if governments execute the agreement in conformity with international and European legal frameworks, few arrivals are likely to be returned, and the agreement risks becoming the latest in a long series of undelivered promises to exasperated publics for whom the complex legal conundrums of implementation are both meaningless and irrelevant.”
Collett warned that this policy is likely to have far-reaching implications, as it sends the message “that providing protection to large populations is a fungible task: should governments face the prospect of domestic unpopularity, the obligation to protect becomes secondary.” She concluded:
“This, for overstretched countries such as Lebanon, is an important memo, and may bolster efforts in major host countries to make conditions untenable for their existing refugee populations, leaving refugees with fewer and fewer alternatives.”
Like Oberreit, Collett suggested that EU member states are more interested in cosmetic fixes than real solutions:
“In focusing upon the most visible perceived threat, the problem has once again been squeezed elsewhere rather than resolved.“
Watch “MSF rejects EU funding in protest at refugee deal” from PressTV:
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