Commission warns of humanitarian crisis as emergency measures prepared

A girl sleeps on a field next to a tent as she and her family wait to be allowed to cross the Greek-FYROM border near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Saturday.

TAGS: Migration, EU

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in Greece unless “all sides assume their responsibilities” in the coming days, as both the European Union and Athens hammered out emergency measures.

“There is no point in playing the blame game any more. We simply have to do everything possible to control the situation,” Avramopoulos said in an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, pointing at the conclusions reached at last week’s EU meeting of interior ministers.

The Greek official called for the implementation of a deal signed between Brussels and Ankara in November to slow the migrant flow; he urged EU states to fulfill pledges to accept asylum-seekers for relocation; and condemned “unilateral actions” taken by several countries, such as the introduction of border controls and Vienna’s cap on asylum seeker numbers.

“Time is no longer on our side,” Avramopoulos said ahead of a crucial meeting of EU leaders with Turkey on March 7.

More than 25,000 migrants and refugees were stranded in Greece over the weekend as neighboring states shut down their borders. An estimated 2,000-3,000 reach the country’s islands every day.

Speaking to Kathimerini on condition of anonymity, a senior European official said that the Commission is preparing a package of measures to be activated in the event of a humanitarian crisis in Greece or other nations along the Balkan migrant route.

These, the official said, include providing funding to an international organization to set up a refugee camp as well as vouchers for refugees to acquire food and accommodation. Similar aid has been provided to African countries, as well as Lebanon and Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Greek government last week requested 228 million euros in emergency aid from the Commission to be spend on infrastructure for the ballooning number of migrants. An emergency plan submitted by Athens foresees the creation of new reception places in addition to the 50,000 Athens has already pledged to the Europeans.