European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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EU launches new humanitarian programme for the integration and accommodation of refugees in Greece

A refugee family talks to an EU Humanitarian Aid team in their rented home. The ESTIA programme provides refugees with dignified accommodation in the form of rented apartments and monthly cash assistance. © EU/ECHO

This includes the launch of the flagship 'Emergency Support To Integration & Accommodation' (ESTIA) programme to help refugees and their families rent urban accommodation and provide them with cash assistance. This marks a change from previous humanitarian projects which mainly provided support for accommodation in camps and the provision of direct supplies.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, "Today we are opening a new chapter in the lives of refugees in Greece. Our new funding is a game changer on how we deliver aid to improve people's lives. The aim of these new projects is to get refugees out of the camps and into everyday accommodation and help them have more secure and normal lives. Together with our humanitarian partners and the national authorities, we are committed to helping the most vulnerable refugees and fulfilling our humanitarian duty in the move towards a more cost-effective response."

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos added, "Europe means solidarity and this is what today's decision is about. The Commission has been standing side by side with Greece from day one and together we have come a long way. The projects launched today are one part of our wider support to the country but also to those in need of our protection. Around 1.3 billion euros of EU funds are at the disposal of Greece for the management of the migration crisis."

The ESTIA contracts were announced by the Commission and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Today's funding comes on top of the €192 million contracted through the EU's Emergency Support Instrument in 2016 and therefore more than doubles emergency support to Greece to a total of €401 million. Overall, the European Union has mobilised over €1.3 billion of support (until 2020) to Greece to help manage migration and the external borders, through various kinds of funding.

The ESTIA programme has a budget of €151 million and is composed of:

Rented accommodation for up to 30 000 people

A €93.5 million project with UNHCR, under the ESTIA programme, sets up large scale rental project to improve living conditions of refugees by providing 22 000 urban accommodation places. It will increase the number of refugees living in rented apartments in Greece 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

A further €57.6 million project with UNHCR, under the ESTIA programme, will set up 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. Using this card, refugees can fulfil their basic needs such as food, medicine and public transportation. At the same time, this assistance is re-injected into the local economy, family shops and service providers.

The remaining funding will go to humanitarian NGOs to top up existing projects addressing pressing humanitarian needs in Greece, including shelter, primary health care, psycho-social support, improved hygiene conditions as well as informal education.

A full list of the funding and projects can be found here.


In urgent and exceptional circumstances such as the increased influx of refugees in Europe, the European Commission can fund humanitarian aid for people in need within the EU territory through the Emergency Support Instrument. Until 2018, up to €700 million of EU-funding will be made available via partner organisations, such as UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations.

The Commission's humanitarian support complements other EU funding instruments which have already been providing significant financial resources for assistance in Greece such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) the Internal Security Fund (ISF), the European Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the EU Health Programme. It is also complementary to the voluntary offers for material assistance by states participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

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