Migrant crisis overwhelms gov’t
PM to chair emergency meeting today amid concerns over funding, which is also threatening return program
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.