Seven months into the worst migrant crisis the world has experienced since World War II, the European Union has finally offered to help countries struggling with tens of thousands of incoming migrants and refugees escaping war-torn lands— especially Syria. Greece is set to receive €30 million in support from a €474 million migration fund the EU has established.
Almost 50,000 people landed on Greek Islands in July alone— more in a single month than in all of 2014, leaving Greek authorities ion the frontier islands like Lesvos and Kos overwhelmed with those arriving stuck in horrible conditions. About 124,000 have arrived since January.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked Europe to help in early August, saying that his cash-strapped country could not deal with the issue on its own.
Boatloads of migrants arriving every day had triggered a “humanitarian crisis within the economic crisis,” Tsipras said after a meeting with ministers. “The EU is being tested on the issue of Greece. It has responded negatively on the economic front – that’s my view. I hope it will respond positively on the humanitarian front,” he said.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) called on Greece to take control of the “total chaos.”
“The level of suffering we have seen on the islands is unbearable. People arrive thinking they are in the European Union. What we have seen was not anything acceptable in terms of standards of treatment,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR director for Europe after visiting the Greek islands of Lesvos, Kos and Chios.
“I have never seen a situation like that. This is the European Union and this is totally shameful,” he added.
EU assistance to Greece has so far been slowed because authorities there have been unable to guarantee proper oversight of the money and because Greek authorities are struggling to cope with EU obligations regarding the handling and registering of migrants.
The EU program funds will support a series of initiatives to handle the migration crisis, including additional resources for border security, increased search-and-rescue missions, a program for relocating tens of thousands of migrants from Greece and Italy to elsewhere in the bloc and a naval operation to take on people-smuggling gangs.