Since mid-2015, Europe has been faced with a massive increase in arrivals of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict or poverty in their countries. In response to this crisis, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has mobilised both its humanitarian aid and civil protection assistance tools.
The Commission has released funding for humanitarian assistance to Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to help them respond to refugees' needs. Material assistance, such as beds, mattresses, blankets, raincoats among others, was delivered via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Greece.
The European Union has also established a new 'Emergency Assistance Instrument' to deliver EU humanitarian funding within the EU territory. This instrument will provide a faster, more targeted response to major crises, including helping Member States cope with large numbers of refugees. The instrument could be used for the provision of basic necessities such as food, shelter and medicine to the large numbers of children, women and men currently arriving in EU countries.
Since November 2015, the European Commission and the EU Member States have also been working together to set up the 'Refugee Facility for Turkey', a €3 billion fund which will support humanitarian aid and development projects for refugees residing in Turkey in 2016 and 2017.
In July 2015, firefighting planes were provided via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to Greece to help stop the spread of forest fires in several parts of the country, while in May 2014, devastating floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia prompted the two countries to ask for emergency support in the form of rescue equipment and teams.
For over two decades, the Commission has supported countries in Central Asia in responding to humanitarian crises and in strengthening preparedness and resilience of the communities towards natural disasters. Since 2010, the European Commission has been funding disaster preparedness projects also in the Southern Caucasus.