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EU - Turkey deal inhumane
Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced on Wednesday it had suspended aid activities at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos to avoid complicity in what it described as an "unfair and inhumane" EU deal to send newcomers back to Turkey.
The move came a day after the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it had suspended some activities in Greece, saying reception centres had become "detention facilities".
The International Rescue Committee (IRC), operating in Lesbos, and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) swiftly joined MSF and the UNHCR in voicing concerns and scaling back activities.
"We took the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria (on Lesbos) because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane," said Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF's head of mission in Greece.
The aid agencies spoke out after a deal struck last week between EU states and Turkey to force migrants and asylum seekers to return from Greek islands to Turkey.
"We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants," said Ms Ingres.
She said MSF had closed "all activities" linked to its operation at the Moria camp on Lesbos, including transportation of refugees to sanitation and medical facilities.
MSF said it would continue to run its transit centre in Mantamados some 20 miles further north, where new arrivals receive first assistance, as well as sea rescue activities.
"MSF will also continue to run mobile clinics on the island of Lesbos for those outside of the hotspot location," the group said.
The EU and Ankara deal aims to cut off the sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands which some 850,000 people used last year as a route to flee the war in Syria.
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