The European Union expressed its intent Friday to fast-track new funding to help Greece cope with the wave of migrants landing on the Greek islands by the hundreds daily.
Describing the present refugee crisis as the worst since World War II, Europe’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramapoulos, who is Greek, said that the first disbursement of about $33 million would be released to Greece as soon as the country sets up a management authority for the fund.
Avramapoulos said the situation in Greece was “particularly urgent,” adding that it would be an “understatement to describe as challenging."
"The world finds itself facing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. And Europe finds itself struggling, fighting to deal with the high influxes of people seeking refuge within our borders," said Avramapoulos. "As far as Greece is concerned, firstly, the situation in the country I know best has become particularly urgent. Almost 50,000 migrants arrived in July, compared to less [than] 6,000 last year for the same month.
"I commend the Greek authorities for their efforts to deal with the situation that it will be an understatement to describe as challenging," he added.
Earlier this week, the EU approved a national funding program of $528 million. In addition to funds, the EU has also proposed a relocation system to transfer 16,000 people in need of international protection from Greece to other EU member states.
A passenger ferry that can hold 2,500 people arrived on the Greek tourist island of Kos Friday, to provide temporary shelter for thousands of refugees making their way there on small dinghies from Turkey.
Greece has been overwhelmed by the surge of refugees and economic migrants, mostly from Syria with more than 125,000 of them reaching the eastern Aegean islands this year, a 750 percent increase compared to 2014.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced Friday that the number of migrants and asylum seekers who have been arriving in Europe is approaching a quarter-million this year.
According to IOM statistics, Eritrea remains the leading country of origin, with 25,567 migrants arriving in Italy from Libya in 2015 and Nigeria is a distant second with 11,899 arrivals. Other important sending countries are Somalia (7,538), Sudan (5,658), Syria (5,495), Gambia (4,837) and Bangladesh (3,692).