Athens, June 20, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
The non-profit organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has announced that it puts an end to its (partial) financing by EU funds as a show of protest to the EU’s policy on the refugee issue.
According to the organization, the decision was made because MSF wanted to send a clear message of protest and distancing after the failure of Europe to deal with the refugee crisis. According to the organisation, the failure has to do with the fact, they state, that the top priority of European policy is to keep refugees and immigrants as far away as possible.
The head of the German MSF annex, Florian Westphal, stated: “we see an isolationist policy in the EU and Germany. This worries us because it ignores the main priority a policy on the refugee issue should have: to provide assistance and safety to those fleeing war and persecution”.
Until today, the MSF have been receiving financial assistance totaling EUR 50 million per year from the European institutions, as well as individual member states, among which Germany.
From now on, the organization states that it will not request funding from Brussels or Berlin. The head of the Belgian annex of the organization, Meinie Nicolai, who has been in the MSF since 1992 and has participated in missions in Liberia, Angola, Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan, gives her own attestation of the situation: “We work with refugees. We see that they start their journey healthy and they end up sick. This is because Europe does everything to hinder their escape”.
Strong criticism on the EU-Turkey Agreement
MSF criticized, among others, the recent EU-Turkey agreement, which provides for stricter guarding of Europe’s external borders, to reduce refugee flows. Immediately after its announcement, the organization spoke of a “shameful agreement” when 8,000 people had already gathered in the Greek islands. The MSF even claims that Europe bears responsibility for the current trapping of 100,000 people in northern Syria, a few kilometers away from the hostilities and the reach of the so-called “Islamic State”.
“In particular, the agreement with Turkey marks a change of direction and, in our view, virtually eliminates the fundamental right these people have to seek international protection”, says the head of the German annex Florian Westphal.
According to its own information, the organization currently operates in 40 countries, including Greece. The MSF emphasise that they do not claim the right to decide who and how many people will stay in Europe. They note, however, that Europe should establish legal channels for migration to end the current impasse.
The European Commission sees no consequences
In its initial reaction the European Commission appears reassuring and stresses that the distancing of MSF will not have painful consequences. “The actions to provide assistance to refugees in Turkey are not affected”, says the European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, as the organization does not participate in the program. For its part, the German Foreign ministry expresses its regret for the organization’s decision, but also appreciation for its work.