February 04, 2003

Moscow, February 5, 2003 -- Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) welcomed the recent declaration by the European Union (EU) calling for the release of Arjan Erkel, head of mission for MSF's medical relief programs in Dagestan, who remains missing after nearly six months.

MSF welcomes the public statement made on January 31 in Brussels by the Presidency of the EU calling for the "immediate and safe release" of Arjan Erkel kidnapped in Dagestan, a republic of the Russian Federation bordering Chechnya.

In its public statement, the EU and its acceding and associated countries along with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) declared that, "the kidnapping of aid workers can only aggravate the situation in the Northern Caucasus and worsen the humanitarian conditions."

In light of this, MSF once again urges the Russian and Dagestani authorities to do everything in their power to bring about Arjan's safe release and reunification with his family.

Arjan Erkel was abducted by gunmen in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, on August 12, 2002. Arjan is 32 years old and has been a volunteer with MSF for more than 6 years.

Since Arjan's kidnapping, MSF's activities in Dagestan have been suspended. MSF continues to provide emergency life saving surgical and maternity assistance in Chechnya, and delivers humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons in Ingushetia.

UPDATE: EU Calls For Release of Kidnapped Aid Worker
Read more about kidnapped MSF volunteer Arjan Erkel