Doctors Without Borders will no longer seek funding from the European Union or from its member states over objections to the controversial EU-Turkey migrant deal, the organization announced Friday morning.
“There is nothing remotely humanitarian about these policies. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged.” – Jerome Oberreit
— MSF International (@MSF) June 17, 2016
“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,” Jerome Oberreit, International Secretary General of Doctors Without Borders, which also goes by the French Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said in a release posted to the organization’s website. “The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of “refugee” and the protection it offers in danger.”
The decision will take effect immediately, and will affect Doctors Without Borders projects worldwide. The organization said that this decision will not affect their patients, and that they will continue to work in Greece and near the Turkey-Syria border. They will seek other funding and use emergency funds to keep running.
In 2015, Doctors Without Borders received 56 million Euros from EU institutions and member states.
“It’s really important to see the real people instead of the political football that they have become,” Obereitt told reporters. “We’re talking about Europe’s refugee shame.”
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 17, 2016
The EU-Turkey deal — which went into effect March 20 — seeks to stop the flood of migrants to Europe’s borders. Under the deal, migrants fleeing Turkey to the Greek Islands — and thus the EU — will be sent back to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum in Greece. For every Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU has agreed to directly settle a Syrian refugee in a European country.
In recompense for cracking down, Europe has offered Turkey nearly 6 billion in aid for Syrian refugees, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, and fast-tracked EU membership talks — political prizes Turkey has long sought. EU membership talks had last stalled due to concerns over human rights abuses and deteriorating freedom of speech in Turkey, which continue to be a concern for the EU.
Doctors Without Borders slammed the deal for using humanitarian aid as a political tool to enforce borders, placing refugees in untenable and dangerous situations, and then legislating them out of sight.
Is Europe’s only offer to refugees that they stay in countries they are desperate to flee?
Turkey already hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country, creating immense strain and worsening conditions for the refugees. Many Syrians flee Turkey to the EU in search of a future, for while Turkey offers them “temporary protection,” non-Europeans are not allowed to officially apply for asylum. Denied legal status, the nearly 3 million displaced Syrians sheltering in the country have difficulty renting a house, finding employment and a fair wage, and receiving an education.
Reports from Amnesty International also show that Turkey is increasingly unsafe for Syrian refugees, as there have been mass deportations of refugees back to Syria in direct contradiction of international law. Border guards have restricted the number of refugees registered for asylum, leaving refugees stranded in dangerous situations. Many have then tried to sneak from Syria into Turkey — and there have been reports of Turkish border guards shooting at refugees trying to cross the border.
The Syrian Crisis has displaced 12 million people, contributing to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The #EUTurkey deal is presented as humanitarian but there is nothing humanitarian about hiding suffering offshore.
— MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 17, 2016
Especially troubling, Doctors Without Borders said, is that the migrant deal is being used as precedent to close more borders to people in need. According to Doctors Without Borders, the EU is in talks for similar deals with 16 other countries, including Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Afghanistan, which comprise 4 of the top ten refugee generating countries.
“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,” said Oberreit. “There is nothing remotely humanitarian about these policies. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged.”
“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.”
Doctors Without Borders has been a vocal critic of what they view as diminishing state responsibility towards humanitarian rights, recently withdrawing from the World Humanitarian Summit, slamming it as a “fig-leaf of good intentions” allowing “systemic violations” of humanitarian law by states to continue unchecked.