So much money, so few re­sults

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY MARIA KATSOUNAKI

A re­cent re­port

in The Guardian ti­tled “Where did the money go? How Greece fum­bled the refugee cri­sis,” makes one won­der what on earth has hap­pened to the $803 mil­lion that has come into Greece from the Euro­pean Union since 2015 as a re­sponse to the in­flux of mi­grants and refugees. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, given that the lion’s share of the fund­ing was given to Greece so that it could cover the needs of the refugees and mi­grants who found them­selves stranded in the coun­try af­ter March 2016, this means that some $14,088 should have been spent on each of the 57,000 or so ben­e­fi­cia­ries. How­ever, an es­ti­mated 70 per­cent of the money that came into the coun­try has gone to waste, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior aid of­fi­cial quoted by the Bri­tish news­pa­per. As The Guardian says, this has been “the most ex­pen­sive hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse in his­tory.” We would add “with zero re­sult.” Think­ing about the dread­ful sit­u­a­tion at some of the makeshift camps that have sprung up – Mo­ria on the is­land of Lesvos be­ing a case in point – one would have to agree. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Greece was also un­able to pro­vide pre­cise fig­ures on how many camps are in op­er­a­tion around the coun­try and how many peo­ple they are ac­com­mo­dat­ing. This ab­sence of re­li­able data has also re- sulted in waste. This is not the first time that Greece has been tac­itly or ex­plic­itly crit­i­cized of mis­man­age­ment in this area. Though waste in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid is some­thing that ev­ery­one takes for granted, Greece has sur­passed all ex­pected lev­els. So where did the money go? All of the an­swers – from non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to the Greek state, and from a de­sire both in Greece and abroad not to make life too easy for the mi­grants and refugees – have one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor: raw cyn­i­cism. Things are worse for the Greek gov­ern­ment, though, be­cause not only does the re­port ex- pose its hu­man­i­tar­ian pos­tur­ing for its own gain, but it also ap­pears un­able to con­trol how and where the money goes. There have been no con­vinc­ing re­sponses from the gov­ern­ment since the re­port was pub­lished, just the usual fin­ger-point­ing and talk of in­sen­si­tive for­eign­ers. More­over, the gov­ern­ment has also shown that it con­tin­ues to fail (or opted to fail) in the sim­ple task of count­ing how many mi­grants and refugees the coun­try is host­ing. Same old same old. The only thing that is un­usual about this whole is­sue is the size of the fund­ing and the des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion at the camps: two things that keep grow­ing in sep­a­rate di­rec­tions.

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