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MSF rejects EU funding over 'shameful' migrant pact with Turkey

Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres says it will no longer take funds from the EU and its member states in protest at the bloc's measures to curb migrant arrivals. Specifically, it objects to an EU deal with Turkey.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said Friday it could not accept money from governments who were responsible for "dangerous migration policies" designed to "push people and their suffering back from European shores."

"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, MSF's international secretary-general, told a press conference in Brussels.

MSF said it received 56 million euros ($63 million) from European Union institutions and the 28 member states in 2015, amounting to around 8 percent of its funding.

Controversial EU-Turkey deal

The group said a main reason for its decision to reject EU aid was a controversial agreement the bloc struck with Turkey in March. That deal aimed to stem a record influx that saw more than a million migrants, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, arrive in Europe last year. As part of the pact, Ankara agreed to take back migrants arriving in Greece by boat in return for financial and political rewards.

"The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of 'refugee' and the protection it offers in danger," Oberreit said.

"We cannot accept funding from the EU or the member states while at the same time treating the victims of their polices. It's that simple."

Money from other sources

Only around 10 percent of the 3 million refugees in Turkey are housed in government-funded shelters. The EU bloc has pledged to resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every Syrian that Ankara accepts from Greece. In exchange, Turkey was offered visa-free EU travel for its citizens, increased aid to help house refugees, and accelerated EU accession talks if it met Brussels' criteria.

MSF blasted the deal, saying it had left 8,000 people, including hundreds of unaccompanied minors, stranded on the Greek islands. The group also criticized the EU for planning similar agreements with countries in Africa and the Middle East.

It said the decision to shun EU money would have no impact on its patients around the world, and that it would use emergency funds and seek support from other channels to keep projects running. MSF underlined that its activities are 92 percent privately funded.

nm/kl (AFP, Reuters)

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