19th Mar 2018

Greece struggling to spend EU migrant funds

  • Fewer people are 'overtly' arriving in Greece since a March deal with Turkey (Photo: Christopher Jahn/IFRC)

Hundreds of millions of available EU funds have yet to be used by the Greek state to help migrants and refugees.

Administrative bottlenecks on the Greek side mean that facilities to house people remain deplorable, and in some cases, even worse than under the previous government, according to one Greek aid worker.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • A 2010 photo of migrants in a centre in Greece, when conditions were better, according to one Greek aid worker (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

The European Commission, for its part, said it will soon be sending someone to Athens to help the government resolve its issues in an effort to better spend the money.

"We have received very, very few expenditure claims so far [from the Greek state ]," an EU official told this website on Friday (16 September).

What has been dispersed has gone primarily to NGOs, international aid organisations, and EU agencies working in Greece.

To speed up the spending, the EU commission wants the Greek state to transfer the responsibility for the overall management of its national programmes to the Greek ministry of economy.

The struggle within the Greek government was highlighted when the state's general secretary for migration, Odysseas Voudouris, resigned last week.

"Facilities are unregulated. New employees are arriving now ... there is no one in charge to tell them what their task is," he told Greek radio Vima FM.

Money pot

Greece has some €509 million of long term EU funds for its national programmes up until 2020.

A first pre-financing payment of €33 million was made last September and a second one of €36 million was disbursed in February this year.

It means a total of approximately €70 million has been disbursed so far. But a lot of that money has ended up with NGOs and international organisations.

"It's not all been given to the Greek authorities because precisely they've had an issue spending the funds," said the EU official.

The €509 million awarded to Greece is taken from the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF).

Emergency assistance and NGOs

Greece has also obtained a lot of separate EU emergency funding, but it too has mostly bypassed the government.

In January, the UN refugee agency UNHCR received some €80 million.

Over €352 million in emergency assistance has been awarded to Greece since last year. And another €115 million was announced only earlier this month.

Some of it has ended up at the Greek ministry of defence and interior. In mid-July, the Greek defence ministry gained access to over €50 million.

That money is supposed to help set up shelter, accommodation, catering, healthcare, and transportation at open accommodation centres.

Abusive conditions

But none of the emergency money has gone to pre-removal and detention centres.

Spyros Rizakos works for the Athens-based Aitima NGO, which monitors Greek detention facilities.

He says many people still have no access to basic services like social and health workers and that detention centres are in desperate need of repairs.

"The funding has not come yet," he said.

There are far fewer people being held in detention centres, when compared to a few years ago. But the conditions are far worse in comparison, says Rizakos.

"In the previous government, we had about 7,000 detainees and at the same time the detention centres were in a better state, in a better condition, because there was funding at the time," he said.

The issue was highlighted in a report earlier last week by Human Rights Watch, which found minors living in squalid and abusive conditions.

"Children face unsanitary and degrading conditions and abusive treatment, including detention with adults and ill-treatment by police," noted the report.


Samos: Inside Greece's 'nightmare' EU hotspot

Asylum centres on the Greek islands have borne the brunt of implementing the EU-Turkey deal. The centre on Samos island has struggled more than the others.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction