€80 million for housing stranded migrants
The European Union pledged yesterday to spend €80 million (US$88 million) to house migrants in Greece even as it seeks tougher procedures for asylum seekers travelling to the continent.
Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for budget and human resources, signed an agreement for a rent-subsidy programme for up to 20,000 people next year.
Thousands of stranded refugees are currently being housed in old venues from the 2004 Olympics, at camps on Greek islands, or are sleeping in tents pitched in city squares and parks in Athens.
"The €80 million is for the year 2016 ... after that it would be assessed. It could be expanded," Georgieva told The Associated Press. "Families could stay at an accommodation for two months, so the number involved over the year would be quite a lot higher than 20,000."
Nearly 800,000 migrants and refugees have crossed through Greece this year, hoping to travel to northern Europe. But Macedonia and other Balkan countries last month toughened their border rules, restricting crossings to those from war-torn nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and stranding others.
Under the Greek housing scheme, assisted by the UN refugee agency, migrants will receive hotel vouchers or cheques to live in vacant apartments.