The medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) announced Friday it will no longer accept funds from the European Union and its member states.
The boycott is a protest of Europe’s strategy to tackle migration, specifically the EU-Turkey deal, which promises 1 billion euros in aid in exchange for Turkey’s acceptance of returned refugees. The deal will see thousands of migrants in Greece forcibly transported back to Turkey.
MSF also takes issue with the EU’s broader “Asylum, Migration and Integration” scheme, including the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which seeks to strengthen African nations’ institutions using development interventions to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.
“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,” said MSF’s International Secretary General Jerome Oberreit in a statement.
The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, which was set up in May, will direct more than 500 million euros over five years through bilateral partnerships with the EU, multilateral partnerships and private sector financing. The first bilateral “compact” as part of the fund was announced by European Commissioner Neven Mimica and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in the days before the European Development Days conference.
“The EU-Turkey deal goes one step further and has placed the very concept of ‘refugee’ and the protection it offers in danger,” the MSF statement said.
MSF will make up the loss of EU support with emergency funds in order to ensure patients are not affected, according to the statement.
MSF received approximately 60 million euros from EU and member states in 2015, and has an annual budget of 750 million euros, according to the most recent MSF annual reports.
While MSF stands alone in its boycott of the fund, other leaders in the humanitarian sector share their objections.
Winnie Byanyima, head of Oxfam International, said the EU's migration policy show’s that “Europe is being tempted to support repressive regimes that it has been in the past working with only at arm's length,” she told Devex.
The EU has announced forthcoming migration compacts with Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, among others.
“Europe is literally trying to outsource its responsibility for border controls and making it the responsibility of developing countries using aid,” she said. “That's contradictory to the purposes of development cooperation by the very foundation of the Lisbon Treaty.”
Byanyima, while critical of the policies, said she still sees a crucial role for implementers such as Oxfam for influencing how the deal affects the most vulnerable.
“The diversion of aid for these purposes is wrong and I'm here to say to Europe: Look, you’ve been the leaders. You've been doing it right. Stay there. Don't walk away from human rights, don't divert aid,” she said.
Whether or not other humanitarian organizations are tempted to follow MSF's lead, the influential charity's decision uncovers a tension between policymakers and those doing the work on the ground, and could signal a divide between those expected to implement EU policies and the EU and member states.