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EU provides $94.4 million to help refugees in Greece

By
Allen Cone
A young boy from Iraq, his face covered in flour from the loaf of bread he's been nibbling on, is pictured walking along the railroad tracks. Refugees are stranded in a makeshift camps in Greece, along the border with Macedonia, after the border was closed on March 7. Photo by David Caprara/UPI
A young boy from Iraq, his face covered in flour from the loaf of bread he's been nibbling on, is pictured walking along the railroad tracks. Refugees are stranded in a makeshift camps in Greece, along the border with Macedonia, after the border was closed on March 7. Photo by David Caprara/UPI | License Photo

BRUSSELS, April 19 (UPI) -- The European Commission has approved $94.4 million to improve living conditions for refugees in Greece.

The funding approved Tuesday was immediately made available to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Federation of the Red Cross and six non-government agencies. These partners will work with the Greek non-government agencies with necessary local knowledge.

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"We have the desire to improve dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible," said Christos Stylianides, European Union commissioner for Humanitarian aid and Crisis Management. "The funding will go to humanitarian aid partners that are working hand-in-hand with the Greek government and local NGOs to ensure that aid is provided in a well-coordinated and structured way in as many places as possible."

According to a European Commission release, the new projects will help provide tens of thousands of refugees and migrants in Greece with primary healthcare, food, better hygiene conditions, child-friendly spaces and temporary housing construction.

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The support comes in addition to the overall EU support provided. Since 2015, Greece has received $205 million in emergency funding from the Asylum, Migrations and Integration Funds and the Internal Security Fund to manage the crisis on top of $579 million allocated from the Greek national program.

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The funding comes in light of a report issued Friday by Amnesty International that said more than 46,000 refugees and migrants in squalid conditions in Greece are in danger of being forgotten.

The report, entitled "Trapped in Greece: An avoidable refugee crisis," examines the situation of refugees and migrants trapped on mainland Greece after the closure of the Macedonian border on March 7.

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"EU states have only exacerbated this crisis by failing to act decisively to help relocated tens of thousands of asylum-seeks, the major of whom are women and children, trapped in Greece," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's director of Europe and Central Asia. "If EU leaders do not act urgently to live up to their relocation promises and improve conditions for stranded refugees and migrants, they will face a humanitarian calamity of their own making."

Of the 66,400 asylum-seekers pledged to be relocated from Greece in 2015, 615 had been transferred to other EU member states, according to information published by European Commission on April 12.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people have been staying at an information camp in Piraeus port, Athens, with basic services provided by volunteers, humanitarian organizations and port authorities, according to the report.

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According to Amnesty International, conditions in many of the 31 temporary sites are inadequate.

"The conditions are not good and we are sleeping on the ground; our blankets are soaked with water. There are no bathrooms," a Syrian woman who was nine months pregnant told Amnesty International at a makeshift camp in Idomeni.

Amnesty International said it talked to unaccompanied children in police stations for up to 15 days until they could be transferred to a shelter for children.

The organization said a mechanism must be set up to help those with special needs.

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