Aid group stops seeking EU funds over Turkey migrant deal


BRUSSELS (AP) — The medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders announced Friday that it will no longer seek European Union funding, in protest at the EU’s much-maligned migrant deal with Turkey.

“The EU deal is the latest in a long line of policies that go against the values and the principles that enable assistance to be provided,” Secretary General Jerome Oberreit told reporters in Brussels.

Doctors Without Borders, he said, “will no longer request funds from the EU and its member states.”

EU money totaled around 46 million euros ($52 million) in 2015, about 8 percent of the organization’s total budget.

Oberreit said Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, still plans to keep working in Greece and near the Turkey-Syria border but will seek money from other sources to keep its projects going.

The unusual and radical step has been the subject of deep debate within the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization.

Unable to agree among themselves on how best to tackle Europe’s biggest refugee emergency since World War II, EU member states have tried to persuade Turkey to stop hundreds of thousands of migrants from coming and take back thousands more. Almost 3 million refugees are sheltering in Turkey, only around 10 percent of them in government-funded shelters.

The EU-Turkey agreement came into effect on March 20. Under it, all migrants traveling from Turkey to the Greek islands will be sent back unless they qualify for asylum in Greece. For every Syrian migrant who returns, the EU has offered to directly resettle a Syrian refugee already there in a European country.

Europe has offered incentives to convince Turkey to crack down, including up to 6 billion euros in funds for Syrian refugees in Turkey, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and fast-track EU membership talks.

Non-governmental organizations and even U.N. agencies have expressed concern about the legal and moral implications of the deal.

Oberreit said MSF is refusing to work in partnership with Europe because the EU’s effort “is not aimed at providing for those most in need. It is aimed at … border control.”