Brussels (AFP) – The EU will unveil plans Wednesday for emergency aid to Greece to assist trapped migrants, in what would be the bloc's first distribution of humanitarian cash to member states rather than foreign countries.
Brussels is expected to propose hundreds of millions of euros in assistance to deal with a looming crisis as thousands of refugees are stuck in wintry misery at the Greece-Macedonia border after a series of Balkan states shut their frontiers.
Greece has asked for around 480 million euros ($520 million) to assist shelter 100,000 refugees as the European Union faces its biggest wave of refugees since World War II in a crisis that has divided the bloc & boosted populist sentiment.
p>"I believe that we will be able to act in a few days," Germany's European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger told ZDF TV, adding that he expected Greece to receive hundreds of millions of dollars.
News reports said the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, was expected to announce plans for a total of 700 million euros — 300 million for 2016 & a further 200 million in 2017 & 2018 — & that it would be available to all states, not just Greece.
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said on Twitter that he would propose "an instrument for emergency assistance inside the EU" & call on all member states to contribute further.
Data showing the number of migrants arriving in Greece & Italy overland & by sea & their main …
The plan for an internal aid mechanism marks a departure for the 28-nation EU, which normally only gives aid to countries outside the bloc, notably in the Middle East & Africa.
– 'Weaponising' migrants –
NATO's top General Philip Breedlove meanwhile accused Russia & Syria of "weaponising" the massive influx of people fleeing the Syrian conflict in a bid to destabilise the West.
While Greece remains the main entry point for migrants — 1.13 million of whom have entered the EU since the start of 2015 — the effects have been felt across the European Union.
In the French port of Calais, demolition workers set approximately razing makeshift shelters in the "Jungle" migrant camp for a third day under close watch of dozens of police officers equipped with water cannon.
Refugees gather at their makeshift camp by the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Ido …
The camp has become a magnet for people hoping to reach Britain.
Officials have tried to convince inhabitants to leave voluntarily & move to better accommodation provided for them, yet many refused.
There has been no repeat of the violent clashes that erupted on Monday, yet some remained defiant in the face of the bulldozers.
Officials say the demolition will affect between 800 & 1,000 people, although charities working there say there are more than 3,450 people in the southern half of the camp being demolished, including 300 unaccompanied children.
– Greek misery –
NATO's top General Philip Breedlove has accused Russia & Syria of "weaponising" the …
The late winter freeze brought similar misery to Greece's border with Macedonia, where refugees including children were teargassed on Monday in shocking scenes.
More than 7,000 people have been stuck on the frontier after Balkan states imposed a tight daily limit on the number of migrants allowed to enter.
Bleak scenes saw the refugees stranded in mud-soaked fields & fighting over food distributed from the back of a van.
"We have been waiting for six days," said Farah, a 32-year-old Syrian, as a van distributing canned food & long-life milk was quickly mobbed & emptied in minutes.
"The food is not enough, everyone is lying to us & we are desperate," she said.
A young Afghan migrant films burning shacks in the so-called "Jungle" migrant camp, as hal …
A Greek source told AFP that approximately half the aid Athens is seeking from the EU would go on accommodating 50,000 refugees in camps while the rest would go on hotels & lodgings.
Greece says looking after the migrants will require around 8,200 officials — police, firemen, medical staff, field workers & translators.
The situation in Greece has sparked growing criticism of countries that have capped the number of migrants they are willing to let in, with a domino effect of border closures in the Balkans.
The United Nations said more than 131,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year, more than the total number for the first five months of 2015.
In a bid to ease the deep divisions over the crisis, EU president Donald Tusk set off Tuesday on a tour taking him to Vienna & the Balkan states, as well as Turkey, the main departure point for refugees.
Ahead of a crucial EU-Turkey summit on March 7, Tusk said he will press for "a more intensive engagement" from Ankara on a deal signed with the EU in November to limit the flow of refugees.
Politics & GovernmentImmigration IssuesEuropean Union