EU approves migrant aid as tensions run higher

20 April 2016
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With tensions running high at refugee camps and centers around the country, the European Union has approved 83 million euros in financial assistance to Greece and 110 million euros to Turkey as part of the deal between Brussels and Ankara to stem the flow of migrants in Europe.

The aid to Greece will be provided to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and six international nongovernmental organizations, including Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Christos Stylianides, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, who visited the Elaionas migrant center Tuesday, said the financial assistance will be given to NGOs working in close cooperation with the Greek government to “ensure that the aid will be provided in a well-coordinated manner to as many areas as possible.”

Stylianides’s visit follows Monday’s scathing condemnation of Greece and Turkey by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – in a press conference with the UNHCR – for violating the human rights of the refugees that were returned to Turkey from Chios on April 4 as part of the EU deal with Ankara.

According to the latest official estimates, there are now more than 54,000 refugees stranded in camps and centers around the country, with most not knowing what their fate will be after last month’s deal.

A total of 3,286 still remain in Piraeus, where growing tensions between refugees along ethnic lines is turning into a headache for authorities. Afghans demonstrated Tuesday against what they said was the preferential treatment given to Syrians who are being transferred to better accommodation centers.

But the situation remains volatile at most camps, such as Elliniko in southern Athens, where more than 5,000 refugees live in deplorable conditions, and at the makeshift Idomeni camp near the border in northern Greece, with over 10,000 migrants dwelling in squalor.

The deal between the EU and Turkey has indeed reduced migrant flows into the continent, even though 150 arrived Tuesday on the Greek islands – which however is a far cry compared to the numbers entering the country before the implementation of the deal began in early April.

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