Idomeni: Uncertainty over the distribution of the EU refugee aid, humanitarian crisis grows larger

SIMELA PANTZARTZI

A refugee woman with a child cries after FYROM's officer denied her the permission to pass the borders from Greece to FYROM in the refugee camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, 03 March 2016. FYROM authorities on 03 March closed the Greek-FYROM buffer zone. The neighhouring countries authorities proceeded with this action when a group of refugees occupied the railway tracks. The crossing point was again open on 03 March and the flow of refugees continued slowly.

British media reported that the European Commissioner in charge of humanitarian aid Christos Stylianides suggested that some of the money maybe be handed in cash to the people in need


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Uncertainty remains over how the €700 million of refugee aid should be distributed to have the best results for the tens of thousands of people who are now trapped at the Greek village of Idomeni which is located at the Greece-FYROM borders.

Greek news agency, ANA-MPA, reported that Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner in charge of humanitarian aid, said that the EU’s executive body will be working closely with the Greek government to pinpoint the needs of refugees and begin providing assistance immediately, either in kind or through the use of coupons distributed by Greek banks.

British dailies, The Daily Mail, Express and the Telegraph reported that the European Commission is also considering giving some of the money directly to the refugees. The Telegraph reported that this policy has been previously used in Somalia and Kosovo, but EU policy papers warn the cash can trigger inflation on the local market, fuel corruption or be stolen if mismanaged.

According to Telegraph, Stylianides said: “I believe that the cash and voucher procedure will prove particularly helpful in this case and it is an important option being given as it ensures dignity for refugees, they can maintain their dignity, while helping local communities because they will be selling their own goods and services and this contributes to better relations with host communities.”

However, the Daily Mail and the Express criticized the giving of cash directly to the refugees reporting the existence of illegal smuggling networks at the Greece-FYROM borders which take advantage of the situation and illegally cross the people in need.

Still the humanitarian crisis at the Greek village of Idomeni is growing as tens of thousands of refugees are now trapped at the small village. Today, Greek website, The Press Project, reported that close to 12,500 refugees are now in the area and approximately 1,600 people were forced to sleep on the mud because of the lack of tents. Heavy rain and low temperatures are making the living conditions for the people in need, much worse.

Yesterday, Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of mission in Greece for Medecins Sans Frontieres, told The Telegraph that the EU aid is much needed. “We’re giving them (the trapped refugees) the basics, but with 10,000 people needing three meals a day, that’s 30,000 meals a day we have to provide…We have only a limited budget…The Greek state needs money, more support and more human resources.”

Ingres welcomed the EU’s announcement and said: “We need money to manage this crisis. Europe is finally waking up after a year. Until now, governments have let humanitarian groups handle everything.”

Three days ago, the UN had warned that the situation in Idomeni may lead to a humanitarian catastrophe while on Wednesday, the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker said that the EU officials “are not only concerned, but really worried about what is happening there (Idomeni). It was foreseen that it would lead to a huge humanitarian crisis in Greece”, the Commission leader acknowledged.

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