European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Cash assistance Greece
EU Emergency Support funding enables the rental of apartments and provision of monthly cash assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers in Greece © European Union

What are the needs?

Greece has experienced an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants. In 2015, while close to 857 000 people transited through the country, in 2016 nearly 172 000 arrived Greece by sea alone.

The closure of the border between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece in early March 2016 had the effect of leaving more than 62 000 people stranded in Greece – often without adequate accommodation, health coverage and access to education.

How are we helping?

Under a newly established EU emergency support instrument, the Commission has allocated €401 million for responding to the refugee situation Greece to its humanitarian aid partners such as UN-bodies, the Red Cross/Crescent and NGOs. The Commission has identified four key priorities in Greece on which it is currently concentrating its efforts: shelter, cash, education and protection of unaccompanied minors (UAMs).

The Commission's flagship initiative under the EU Emergency Support Instrument is the 'Emergency Support to Integration & Accommodation' (ESTIA) programme that helps refugees and their families rent urban accommodation and provides them with cash assistance. The ESTIA programme has a budget of €151 million and is composed of:

  • Rented accommodation for up to 30 000 people

This €93.5 million project with UNHCR sets up large scale rental project to improve living conditions of refugees by providing 22 000 urban accommodation places. The project will increase the number of refugees living in rented apartments in Greece to up to 30 000 by the end of 2017. Some 2 000 rented accommodation places will be located on the Greek islands, with the bulk of apartments rented in cities and towns on mainland Greece and local landowners receiving a stable and reliable income for these apartments. A number of municipalities in Greece are also formally part of this project.

  • Cash assistance to empower refugees to meet basic needs

This €57.6 million project with UNHCR establishes a basic social safety net for all asylum seekers and refugees in Greece by providing them with pre-defined monthly cash allocations through a dedicated card. It aims to enable refugees to meet their basic needs in a dignified manner. The allocations are consistent across the country, and pegged to the Greek emergency social safety net, as well as being based on the refugees' family size. At the same time, this assistance is re-injected into the local economy, family shops and service providers.

The remaining €250 million of EU Emergency Support funding, which are not part of the ESTIA flagship programme, support another 18 projects that address further humanitarian needs in Greece, including shelter, primary health care, psycho-social support, improved hygiene conditions as well as education.

Learn more about the joint humanitarian projects between UNHCR and the European Commission in Greece.

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