So much money, so few results


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 resulted 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 expose 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.