In urgent and exceptional circumstances, such as the sudden influx of refugees in Europe, the European Union can fund emergency humanitarian support for people in need within the EU territory. The emergency support within the EU, adopted in March 2016, aims to preserve life, prevent and alleviate human suffering and maintain human dignity.
This type of support can be provided for exceptional disasters in the European Union with severe humanitarian consequences. The provision of such assistance is decided collectively by Member States within the Council. Other financial instruments or tools also exist to respond to disasters within the EU, such as the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Emergency humanitarian assistance can be delivered, in close coordination with EU Member States, to the most vulnerable victims of disasters via projects carried out on the ground by the EU's humanitarian partner organisations. These organisations are United Nations agencies, international organisations, Member State specialised services or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have signed an agreement with the EU. Where necessary, the EU can also directly fund assistance, relief and protection operations.
Food, shelter, water, medicine, and protection measures are some examples of humanitarian assistance delivered to affected populations. All emergency support operations within the EU are carried out in accordance with the international humanitarian principles.
Emergency support inside Europe can be provided in response to exceptional disasters that result in severe and wide-ranging humanitarian consequences in one or more European Union Member States.
Close to 1.4 million refugees and migrants arrived in the EU between 2015 and 2016 by sea. This stretched the response capacity of single Member States to their limits. That is why the Council of the EU approved emergency support in the EU to help respond to the influx of refugees and migrants in the EU. In Greece, nearly 857 000 refugees and migrants arrived in 2015 alone.
To respond to this unprecedented situation, the EU dedicated over €643 million for the period from 2016 to 2019 to fund emergency support operations addressing the needs of refugees in Greece. The EU funding was made available via partner organisations such as UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This support is complementary to what is already provided by the national authorities.
The funding enabled the delivery of primary healthcare, better hygiene conditions and the construction of temporary housing for people in need. EU-funded projects also ensured the provision of food and other essentials such as sleeping bags, blankets, and personal hygiene items. Since 2017, with the situation in Greece increasingly being managed by the Greek authorities, the EU's emergency support funding has shifted towards more permanent and dignified solutions for refugees. The flagship of this transition has been the 'Emergency Support to Integration & Accommodation' (ESTIA) programme, which helps refugees and their families rent urban accommodation and provides them with regular cash assistance.
Only the EU's humanitarian partner organisations can apply for funding to deliver emergency support within the EU.