Ac­tion pledged on refugee cri­sis

PM prom­ises to speed up ab­sorp­tion of EU funds as UNHCR de­mands use of more re­sources to tackle prob­lem

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras yesterday pledged swift ac­tion to help author­i­ties deal with the soar­ing in­flux of refugees and mi­grants reach­ing Greece as the United Na­tions re­vealed that the num­ber of ar­rivals this year is more than 750 per­cent higher than in 2014.

Tsipras chaired a gov­ern­ment meet­ing aimed to tack­ling the grow­ing prob­lem, which has left author­i­ties on Greek is­lands un­able to cope with the sheer num­bers of peo­ple ar­riv­ing on their shores. The other as­pect of the prob­lem is that so many mi­grants and refugees are ar­riv­ing that Greece does not have the in­fra­struc­ture to deal with them, mean­ing many are forced to live in squalid con­di­tions in makeshift camps.

It was de­cided at yesterday’s meet­ing that the gov­ern­ment will take steps over the next few days to form a body that can man­age the funds the Euro­pean Union is will­ing to al­lo­cate for mi­gra­tion- and asy­lum-re­lated projects.

EU mi­gra­tion spokes­woman Natasha Ber­taud said yesterday that 320 mil­lion eu­ros is avail­able to Greece for tack­ling immigration over the next few years. “We are do­ing a lot to help Greece,” she said. “There are record num­bers of ar­rivals and we know the sit­u­a­tion is pres­sur­ized.”

Tsipras and his min­is­ters also agreed yesterday that the Greek gov­ern­ment would step up ef­forts to gen­er­ate in­ter­na­tional aware­ness about the prob­lem and to push for greater sol­i­dar­ity from within the Euro­pean Union, per­haps by join­ing forces with other coun­tries that are af­fected.

“The EU is be­ing tested on the is­sue of Greece. It has re­sponded neg­a­tively on the eco­nomic front . I hope it will re­spond pos­i­tively on the hu­man­i­tar­ian front,” said Tsipras.

The United Na­tions Refugee Agency (UNHCR) yesterday called on Greece and the EU to do more to help mi­grants and refugees. “The level of suf­fer­ing we have seen on the is­lands is un­bear­able,” Vin­cent Co­chetel, UNHCR di­rec­tor for Europe, said af­ter vis­it­ing Lesvos, Kos and Chios. “I have never seen a sit­u­a­tion like that. This is the Euro­pean Union and this is to­tally shame­ful,” he added, urg­ing Athens to mo­bi­lize more re­sources, in­clud­ing the army.

EU bor­der agency Fron­tex said that al­most 50,000 mi­grants ar­rived in the EU in July via Greece, com­pared to 41,700 in all of 2014. The UNHCR said that the to­tal fig­ure for the year so far stands at around 124,000, which is more than 750 per­cent up on the same pe­riod in 2014.

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