Médecins Sans Frontières: the European Union has made the refugee crisis worse

Un rapporto di Medici senza frontiere punta il dito contro le politiche con le quali l’Ue ha risposto alla crisi dei migranti: “Un catastrofico fallimento”.

The policies implemented by the European Union in 2015 to respond to the humanitarian needs of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants tuned out to be a “catastrophic failure”. The accusation comes from Médecins Sans Frontièrs (MSF), in a report (titled Obstacle Course to Europe) released on 19 January, which draws a – grim – overview of the medical-humanitarian impact of decisions made by Europe.

 “The European Union must take on its responsibilities”

“Not only did the European Union and European governments collectively fail to address the crisis, but their focus on policies of deterrence along with their  chaotic response to the humanitarian needs of those who flee actively worsened the conditions of thousands of vulnerable men, women and children,” said Brice de le Vingne, Director of Operations for MSF.


“Never before has MSF had so many projects in Europe. Never before has MSF decided to mobilise three search and rescue ships at sea to save lives,” added Federica Zamatto, ‎Deputy operations coordinator for MSF. “Never before has it been more urgent for European governments to step up to their international obligations and assist those whose lives are at risk”.


migranti croazia medici senza frontiere
Migrants and police at the border between Serbia and Croatia ©Juan Carlos Tomasi/MSF

Médecins Sans Frontières’ committment tripled in 2015

Between 1 January and 15 December 2015 the NGO had to triple its actions, with over 100,000 medical and mental consultations carried out in Italy, Greece, and Balkans, whilst rescuing 23,747 people at sea. This was made possible thanks to the activism of 535 humanitarian operators.


The report especially blames the “obstacles the EU and European governments placed in the way of more than one million people, most of them fleeing war and persecution from not providing any alternative to a deadly sea crossing, to erecting razor wire fences and continuously changing administrative and registration procedures to committing acts of violence at sea and at land borders; and providing  completely inadequate reception conditions in Italy and Greece, Europe has done an atrocious job”.


“Lots of pregnant women queuing for several days in the mud”

“We have witnessed a lot of pregnant women and children queuing for several days in the mud, soaking wet in the pouring rain without any protection, some of them only wearing a t-shirt. People can’t stand up anymore because their feet are swollen after being wet for several days. Police don’t allow refugees to leave the queue to have access to healthcare. This is completely inhumane,” said MSF project coordinator in Lesbos, Greece.


“It may be a new year but we know that people will continue to risk their lives and no restrictive policy will stop them from seeking a better future for themselves and their families,” said Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF’s Humanitarian Advisor on Displacement.  “We continue to call for a safe passage and urge Europe to stop playing with people’s lives and dignity”.


Cover photo: ©Alessandro Penso/MSFe

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