Programme seeks 20,000 places for asylum seekers in Greece
ATHENS, Greece, Dec 14 (UNHCR) - The UN Refugee Agency and the European Commission have launched a programme to provide 20,000 additional reception places for asylum seekers in Greece through subsidies for private sector housing.
The Commission is providing 80 million euros from the 2016 EU budget. The programme follows the European Agenda on Migration earlier this year, and helps to deliver on a commitment made by Greece and the UNHCR during the Western Balkans Leaders' Meeting on 25 October 2015.
"Since the adoption of the European Agenda on Migration in May, the European Commission has taken a number of key actions to address the current emergency," said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations George Okoth-Obbo. "Today, we put in place together the conditions to provide vital assistance and accommodation through 20,000 reception places," he added.
Greece is one of the EU Member States most impacted by the unprecedented refugee crisis facing Europe. More than 790,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in the country so far this year.
Under the programme, the Commission is providing funding from the EU budget for UNHCR to support Greece in developing its asylum reception capacity. The UN Refugee Agency will provide for 20,000 reception places through rent subsidies and host family programmes.
The places provided under this scheme are an important part of the EU emergency relocation programme, providing temporary accommodation in Greece for applicants who are awaiting relocation to other EU Member States.
UNHCR has already supported the Greek Government in the improvement of existing facilities on some of its islands. While the construction works at the hotspots are undertaken by the Greek authorities, under the programme UNHCR would also support the establishment of the hotspots through advice by its staff, acquisition of supplies and construction works as necessary.
The total funding for the refugee crisis from the EU budget in 2015 and 2016 amounts to 10 billion euros. The costs for this programme in 2016 are part of over 4 billion euros allocated from the EU budget for addressing the refugee crisis in EU Member States and tackling the root causes in countries of origin and transit.
Signing the declaration with Okoth-Obbo was Ioannis Mouzalas, Greece's Alternate Minister of Interior and Administrative Reconstruction, and, on behalf of the European Commission, Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva, who is responsible for Budget and Human Resources.
"The scheme we are launching offers EU budgetary support for families, notably providing them with adequate shelter," Georgieva said: "While today's declaration is about temporary assistance, the Commission continues to use the full range of tools at our disposal to find a long-term solution to the refugee crisis in Europe."