EU to muster 700 mln for refugees as UNHCR warns of ‘humanitarian crisis’

EU to muster 700 mln for refugees as UNHCR warns of ‘humanitarian crisis’

The European Union is set to take the first step on Wednesday in releasing more funding aimed at averting a humanitarian disaster in Greece, where the number of refugees and migrants unable to leave the country is growing.

The College of Commissioners is expected to approve the release of 700 million euros over the next three years. Sources told Kathimerini that these are funds that will be diverted to NGOs rather than Greece, or any other state. Although the package is meant to be for use across the EU, it is expected that the vast majority will be used to alleviate problems in Greece.

Sources said that 300 million euros will be disbursed this year and 400 million over 2017 and 2018. The EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Parliament will have to give their approval before any money can be transferred.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called for better planning and accommodation for at least 24,000 it said were stuck in Greece.

“Europe is on the cusp of a largely self-induced humanitarian crisis,” UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing. “The crowded conditions are leading to shortages of food, shelter, water and sanitation. As we all saw Tuesday, tensions have been building, fueling violence and playing into the hands of people smugglers. Greece cannot manage this situation alone.”

On a visit to Vienna Tuesday, European Council President Donald Tusk said he would press Turkey this week for more “intensive” help in the migrant crisis.

“But at the same time we expect a more intensive engagement from our partners as an absolute precondition to avoid a humanitarian disaster,” he added.

After holding talks in Austria and Slovenia Tuesday, Tusk is due in Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Wednesday. on Thursday, he will travel to Athens first for talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and then to Ankara to meet Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The following day he will hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.

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