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Europe

EU Commission announces aid package to tackle refugee crisis

media Christos Stylianides - European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The European Commission has released a proposal for 700 million euros to be given to member states in order to alleviate the desperate circumstances facing refugees in Europe. The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said that he strongly believed "there is only a European solution to this crisis".

An emergency assistance package to tackle the humanistarian crisis caused by refugees fleeing war-torn countries was presented by the European Commission at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

This will be the European Union's first distribution of humanitarian aid to EU member states, rather than to foreign countries.

The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, announced a proposal for 700 million euros to be distributed in aid over the next three years: 300 million euros initially, followed by 200 million the following year, and 200 million euros the year after that.

These relief funds will be used to help shelter refugees arriving from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stylianides said that the initial 300 million euros would be available immediately and would be in addition to funds from individual member states. He also stressed the importance of the European Union working together to address this crisis.

"This emergency support on its own cannot and will not solve all problems," he said. "There are no magical formulas. Now, more than ever, member states in the EU need to work hand in hand to reinforce each other's actions. And, in this way, the European Union can provide a united response to humanitarian suffering. I strongly believe there is only a European solution to this crisis." 

The international charity, Oxfam, welcomed the announcement. Sara Tesorieri, the EU Conflict and Humanitarian Policy Advisor, said: "It's certainly very welcome. The needs on the ground are enormous, and they are likely to increase. Certainly, this shouldn't make the EU or the international community complacent about the situation. Importantly, more effort is needed to make sure that people aren't in these desperate situations. We need to see the political leadership as well, particularly when European leaders meet in a couple of weeks to discuss this." 

People at the refugee camp on the border with Greece have desribed the camp's conditions as deteriorating rapidly after a series of Baltic states closed their borders.

A Syrian woman, whose family has been stranded at the Greek border for more than a week, said: "We came here to Europe because we thought it was a country of freedom: we can live here, they will respect us, they will help us; but we really saw nothing of that."

Another refugee from Syria explained that, despite the terrible conditions at the camp, turning back was not an option. "We will never give up," he said. "We have to continue our trip because we cannot go back to our countries. Our countries are full of ISIS. We've fled from ISIS."

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, statistics released this week showed that more than 122,000 people landed in Greece during January and February this year.

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