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MSF rejects $63m in EU funding over 'shameful' migration policy

Aid group says EU members states 'misuse aid' to help them enforce border control policies, pledging to look for alternative funding
Rights groups and refugees have criticised an EU-Turkey deal to return asylum seekers to Turkey (AFP)

Aid group Doctors Without Borders will no longer take funds from the EU in protest at its "shameful" policies on the migration crisis including a deal with Turkey, the group said on Friday.

The charity, known by its French acronym MSF, received $63m from EU institutions and the 28 member states last year.

"MSF announces today that we will no longer take funds from the EU and its member states in protest at their shameful deterrence policies and their intensification of efforts to push people and their suffering back from European shores," the group said in a statement.

MSF also accused EU states of using humanitarian aid to help them enforce their border policies, alleging that members 'misuse aid' for political purposes.

The group singled out for criticism the EU's deal with Turkey in March, which aims to stem the biggest flow of migrants into the continent since World War II.

"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, international secretary-general of MSF, told a press conference.

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

Under the Turkey deal, Ankara agreed to take back all migrants and refugees landing in the Greek islands, and to crack down on people smuggling over the Aegean Sea.

In exchange, the EU said it would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every Syrian that Ankara takes back from Greece.

'Cannot accept funding'

Turkey was meanwhile offered visa-free access, increased aid and speeded up EU accession talks if it met certain conditions, including changes to Ankara's anti-terrorism laws.

MSF said 8,000 people - including hundreds of unaccompanied minors - had been left stranded in the Greek islands by the deal.

Oberreit also criticised a proposal last week to make similar deals with African and Middle Eastern countries.

He added: "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."

MSF said it received 19 million euros from EU institutions and 37 million euros from member states in 2015, amounting to eight percent of its funding.

It added that its activities are 90 percent privately funded.

"We are looking for other funding channels," MSF migration expert Aurelie Ponthieu told the press conference. "We are not cutting down programmes."

The charity said its medics had treated 200,000 men, women and children in the Mediterranean and in Europe in the last 18 months. It also received 6.8 million euros from Norway, which is not part of the EU.

Europe has struggled to deal with a wave of more than one million refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in Syria, the wider Middle East and Africa since the start of 2015.