Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will no longer accept money from the European Union and EU countries, the international medical aid group announced Friday, charging that the bloc's attempts to keep foreigners out of Europe heightens the suffering of migrants.
"MSF will not receive funding from institutions and governments whose policies do so much harm," the medical charity's secretary general, Jerome Oberreit, said.
MSF workers provided treatment for some 200,000 migrants in Europe and on the Mediterranean Sea during the last year and a half.
While the activities of the Geneva-based group are 92 per cent privately funded, it received 43.8 million euros (49.2 million dollars) from the EU and EU countries last year.
The bloc's executive, the European Commission, downplayed the MSF decision to reject EU funding, saying it would not affect humanitarian projects in Turkey or elsewhere.
"MSF is not an implementing partner of EU humanitarian aid in Turkey, neither has MSF submitted any requests for funding of their activities in Turkey. Therefore no life-saving humanitarian aid for refugees in Turkey will be affected," spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists in Brussels.
"The commission has been informed that the suspension will have no impact on ongoing EU-funded humanitarian projects implemented by MSF in other parts of the world," he added.
MSF received around 15 million euros from the commission last year, representing just over 1 per cent of the EU executive's humanitarian aid budget, Schinas said.
The commission helped broker a refugee swap deal with Turkey that European governments have declared a success, but which MSF argued has left 8,000 migrants, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, stranded in Greece.
"They fear a forced return to Turkey, yet are deprived of essential legal aid, their one defence against collective expulsion," MSF said.
Schinas, however, defended the commission's assessment that the deal is legal, saying that this was in line with the view of organizations such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe human rights watchdog.
Since the deal was reached in March, migrant crossings from Turkey to Greece have dropped from a daily average of 1,740 before the start of May to just 47 since then, the commission had said on Wednesday.
MSF also lashed out at the EU for planning to conclude similar agreements with countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The commission proposed last week that countries in these regions should be offered a mix of positive and negative incentives to help curb migration flows to Europe.
Among these partner countries, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan generate major outflows of refugees.
"Once again, Europe's main focus is not on how well people will be protected, but on [how] efficiently they are kept away?" Oberreit asked.
MSF warned that the EU-Turkey deal was creating a domino effect of closed borders and restrictive policies along migration routes.
The group pointed to Kenya's decision last month to close the world's largest refugee camp, Daadab, which hosts Somalians. MSF also charged that the EU was doing nothing to encourage Syria's neighbouring countries to let in people fleeing the Syrian war.
"There is nothing remotely humanitarian in hiding this despair offshore. It cannot become the norm and must be challenged," Oberreit said.
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