Thirty asylum seekers were to travel from Greece on November 3 under the European Union’s migrant relocation scheme, headed for Luxembourg for processing of their asylum applications.
On November 4, European Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn will travel to Greece.
Together with Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Greek alternate interior minister and migration policy minister Ioannis Mouzalas they will meet the first group of asylum seekers to benefit from the EU’s relocation scheme from Greece.
Thirty asylum seekers will travel by aircraft from Athens International Airport to have their applications processed in Luxembourg.
Avramopoulos said:”Tomorrow the first flight will leave Greece under the EU’s relocation scheme. More than 600 000 people have entered the EU through Greece so far this year. Today’s relocation is a symbolic moment, but it is also a crucial first step in a process that has to become systematic.
“It is now time to step up a gear, to have all hotspots fully functioning, and to make relocation a regular occurrence. We commend Luxembourg for being the first member state to relocate people from Greece, as well as for their political efforts as Council Presidency to get this scheme started. We are counting on all member states to take the necessary steps so that more relocations can follow swiftly from Greece and Italy,” Avramopoulos said.
Meanwhile, the European Commission said on November 3 that it was “unlocking” additional financial support for the UN’s Refugee agency, UNHCR, providing two million euro to meet the basic needs of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers currently in the Western Balkans.
This humanitarian aid will enable the UNHCR to provide 200 000 refugees with warm clothes for the winter and temporary shelter and protection at reception sites in the region.
“With winter looming, the most vulnerable need our help and solidarity more than ever. They need basic supplies such as food, shelter, hygiene items as well as emergency health care. We are providing humanitarian support to do just that,” EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said.
In 2015, the European Commission is providing humanitarian aid amounting to more than 8.74 million euro in the Western Balkans. This funding for the UNHCR is part of the 17 million euro aid package announced on October 3 to help Serbia and Macedonia cope with the refugee influx.
Further, the European Commission said on November 3 that it will give 62 million euro in humanitarian aid to support Syrians displaced by the conflict inside the country
The funding allocation was announced by Stylianides, who was concluding a visit to Jordan and Lebanon.
The new funding comes at a critical moment with a worsening security situation in the country and will help cover winterisation and basic needs of refugees and host communities, such as health care, clean water, shelter, rent and education, an EC statement said.
Stylianides said: “We must continue to get humanitarian aid to Syrians in need as the coming winter will bring additional hardship to the most vulnerable.
“That’s why the European Commission is taking action, getting lifesaving humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians inside the country and refugees in neighbouring countries. Over recent days in Jordan and Lebanon I’ve met entire families who have fled Syria. I’ve seen first hand how our humanitarian aid is making and will make a difference, yet peace is the only solution that can end the refugee crisis, a humanitarian crisis.”
The new funding for Syria follows the recent announcements of 43 million euro for Lebanon and 28 million euro to Jordan, made by the Commissioner to the respective national authorities over November 1 to 3. All in all 133 million euro in additional humanitarian aid in 2015 will go to the three countries.
(Migrants in Athens. Photo: Pavlos Zafiropoulos)