The European Union is proposing increased humanitarian aid for Greece, where more than 20,000 refugees and migrants are stuck after borders were tightened along the Balkans preventing them from trekking north to wealthier parts of Europe.
The EU executive’s aid and crisis management commissioner put forward a plan on Wednesday to allocate 300 million euros ($325 million) this year to helping any EU state, not only Greece, deal with humanitarian crises, and a total of 700 million over the three years to end-2018. (Beyond 2018, the scheme would continue with further funding.)
More than a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year — mostly via Turkey to Greece — and another 130,000 have reached the continent so far in 2016. Overwhelmed, Greece and other countries along the main migration route have tended to wave the people through and the influx has brought Europe’s Schengen zone of free travel to the verge of collapse.
Brussels and Berlin, which are battling to make a joint European plan to alleviate the migration crisis work, are banking on Turkey to sharply reduce the number of people embarking for Europe, many of whom have fled the war in Syria.
But a growing number of EU states are resorting to unilaterally tightening their own borders, seeking to control the flow of people and prevent a spike in the arrivals many expect later in March as the weather improves.