Thursday

20th Sep 2018

EU to scale back Greek asylum aid

  • Moria camp in Lesbos in late 2015. Conditions remain deplorable. (Photo: Save the Children)

Stranded refugees on the Greek islands will soon have to rely on the Greek government for all basic services.

Athens is set to nationalise services over the summer that were previously funded by the EU amid concerns that it won't be able to deliver, as some 60 people continue to arrive from Turkey to the islands on a daily basis.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Greek socialist MEP Miltiadis Kyrkos, at a hearing on the issue at the European Parliament on Wednesday (12 July), said that the transition of aid from EU-funded NGOs to the Greek state will be a "disaster."

Conditions at some of the camps on the islands remain deplorable, with asylum seekers setting fire to tents earlier this week at Moria in Lesbos.

Crowded conditions, poor food, and lack of security has pushed many to the edge of exasperation.

Human Rights Watch, an NGO, over May and June had also documented the mental health of asylum seekers and migrants on Lesbos.

Self-harm, suicide attempts, aggression, anxiety, and depression are becoming more widespread, it noted. Around 14,000 people are stranded on the islands.

Their plight is likely to become even worse amid persistent fears that Turkey may renege on its shaky deal with the EU to prevent Syrians from leaving towards Greece.

Kyrkos said Lesbos currently hosts ten doctors, eleven nurses, and eight psychologists, who can be accessed 24-hours a day.

Once the state takes over, Lesbos will have two doctors, one nurse, and one psychologist, with eight hours per day access, Kyrkos said.

"It is not possible to leave the islands to the Greek administration, you should intervene," he told Simon Mordue, the deputy director general at the European Commission's home affairs department, also present at the parliament hearing.

The warning appears not to have been heeded.

Mordue maintained that Greece must now "own the response" to the challenges and that the EU commission stands ready to provide the state with any further funding, in case of need.

He also noted that a call for proposals to provide shelter for unaccompanied minors had ended on 30 June.

"These are currently under evaluation, and to be concluded, and I hope [them] to be signed by the Greek government by 1 August," he said.

But broader questions persist on how well Greece has managed the EU funding, given the poor state of reception on the islands.

Last winter, asylum seekers on the islands woke up in deep snow, despite assurances by Greek migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas that the camps had been winter-proofed.

The EU has earmarked over €500 million for Greece between 2014 and 2020.

An additional €362 million has been made available for emergency assistance, either directly to Greek authorities or international aid organisations and NGOs.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) received a record €340 million from the EU between 2015 and 2016.

"We are absolutely ready to progressively step back and disengage from Greece as long as this done responsibly," said an official from the UNHCR.

Greece has since published calls for reception services on the islands. This is currently under evaluation.

The plan is to create an additional 2,000 spaces available for unaccompanied minors before the end of the year.

But NGOs working on the islands remain wary.

"To date, no national response plan has been released, and information about how the transition will be implemented is severely lacking," a group of NGOs, including Doctors without Borders and Save the Children, said in a joint-statement.

In 2016, Greece recognised 2,700 people as refugees, compared to over 3,000 since the start of this year.

Italy to impose tough rules on NGOs

Italian authorities will release a code of conduct for NGOs, which prevents them, among other things, from entering Libyan territorial waters. A draft copy of the code says NGOs will be banned from Italian ports on failure to comply.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

Analysis

EU to shore up borders, returns and migrant detentions

The European Commission wants more border controls, detentions and returns for rejected asylum seekers. The harsh tone is part of a broader anti-migrant mood. "We are treated like rats," one asylum seeker stuck on a Greek island told this website.

Visual Data

Europeans also seek EU asylum

Every year, almost 100,000 Europeans seek asylum in EU countries. The number of applications continues to grow, but the issue remains on the margins of political debate.

News in Brief

  1. UK's Brexit plan 'won't work', says EU's Tusk
  2. Austria ex-chancellor hints at running for Juncker's job
  3. Greece to move asylum-seekers from overcrowded Lesbos camp
  4. Transatlantic soya trade soars due to trade wars
  5. EU tables strategy for connecting Europe and Asia
  6. Bulgaria backs Hungary in dispute with EU
  7. Trump urged Spain to build Sahara wall to stop migrants
  8. EU-Arab League summit proposed for February in Egypt

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us