Mi­grant cri­sis over­whelms gov’t

PM to chair emer­gency meet­ing to­day amid con­cerns over fund­ing, which is also threat­en­ing re­turn pro­gram

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras is due to chair an emer­gency gov­ern­ment meet­ing to­day to ad­dress the refugee cri­sis fac­ing Greece, which has been com­pounded by se­ri­ous fund­ing prob­lems.

The meet­ing was called in the wake of Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Mi­gra­tion Dim­itris Avramopou­los in­form­ing Tsipras that Greece was miss­ing out on more than 500 mil­lion eu­ros in Euro­pean Union fund­ing be­cause it has failed to set up a ser­vice to ab­sorb and al­lo­cate this money for immigration and asy­lum projects.

Kathimerini un­der­stands Avramopou­los has told the prime min­is­ter Greece will be given as a down pay­ment 4 per­cent of the to­tal fund­ing due over a six-year pe­riod. This will be fol­lowed by another 3 per­cent to cover ac­tions this year.

Tsipras is due to dis­cuss this is­sue, as well as the soar­ing num­ber of refugees and mi­grants reach­ing Greece, with Al­ter­nate Min­is­ter for Immigration Pol­icy Ta­sia Christodoulopoulou and sev­eral other cab­i­net mem­bers to­day. Christodoulopoulou ad­mit­ted yesterday that the gov­ern­ment has so far fallen short on this mat­ter. “At the mo­ment, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and char­i­ties are cov­er­ing the gaps left by the state,” she told Mega TV. “With- out them things would be worse.”

The mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem fac­ing Greece was un­der­lined by the United Na­tions yesterday. A UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) of­fi­cial told Agence-France Presse that by the end of July, around 224,000 refugees and mi­grants had ar­rived in Europe by sea and that of those, some 124,000 landed in Greece.

Greece’s lack of pre­pared­ness to deal with this huge in­flux is also threat­en­ing the EU-sub­si­dized vol­un­tary re­turn pro­gram for mi­grants. The gov­ern­ment has re­cently been un­able to pro­vide the fund­ing for the scheme, which is man­aged by the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM).

“We are in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion,” Daniel Es­dras, chief of IOM’s mis­sion in Greece, told Kathimerini. “We are re­ceiv­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from mi­grants ev­ery day. We can­not af­ford to de­stroy the struc­ture of the re­turn process.”

Es­dras said IOM has been ask­ing em­bassies of Euro­pean coun­tries in Athens to pro­vide emer­gency fund­ing so the scheme does not come to a halt. Es­dras said that Nor­way, the United King­dom and Switzer­land have so far con­trib­uted funds.

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