MSF Hits Back After People Smuggling Collusion Accusations With Viral Video Accusing EU Of Migrant Cruelty

MOAS Conduct Rescue Operations Off The Libyan Coast
Dan Kitwood/Getty

Charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders – MSF) has hit back at the European Union’s border Force, Frontex, over accusations that it has been colluding with people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

MSF Sea, which operates in the Mediterranean, hit back by releasing a “corrected” video on the EU’s activities tackling the migrant crisis this year.

On Wednesday the European Council released a short video outlining the work it had done to “regain control on illegal immigration flows” throughout 2016.

But MSF quickly responded with an edited version, accusing the EU of making “the lives of refugees and migrants miserable” and of entrapping “people in warzones, unable to flee”.

In the video, they accuse the EU ships of rescuing 110,352 migrants from the sea only because it was in line with anti-smuggling operations, and the EU of using migrants as “bargaining chips” in a deal with Turkey.

They acknowledge that both refugees and migrants are making the crossing, however – the latter being defined on their own website as “someone who chooses to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families”.

They add: “We provide medical care without judgment and strongly believe that no human being should drown when the means exist to prevent it.”

The video spat comes days after Frontex accused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the region, including MSF, of effectively colluding with people smugglers ferrying migrants across the Mediterranean into the EU illegally, by stepping in and ferrying the people themselves.

NGO activity accounted for 40 per cent of migrant rescues in October, up from just five per cent at the beginning of the year.

A report by Frontex, seen by the Financial Times, found that some migrants were being given explicit directions to reach the NGO boats, while others had been warned not to cooperate with Frontex or the Italian authorities.

According to Guardian journalist Patrick Kingsley, Frontex later walked back slightly from their comments, making it clear that they had not accused the NGOs of directly collaborating with smugglers.

MSF Sea has repeatedly defended itself from the accusation on Twitter, arguing that they are merely “saving lives”.

Follow Donna Rachel Edmunds on Twitter: or e-mail to:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.