BRUSSELS – The head office of the European Union on Wednesday sought to swiftly push through a proposal to earmark 700 million euros ($760 million) in humanitarian aid to improve the situation for migrants in need of shelter.
EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said 300 million euros ($325 million) would be earmarked for this year alone and be used "where it is most needed," alluding to Greece and the nations along the Balkan migrant trail. The overall total would cover three years.
The EU Commission proposal for funding will still need to be approved by the European parliament and the member states.
Since the beginning of 2015, over a million refugees and other migrants have entered the EU, mainly through Greece, to seek a better life in wealthy EU nations like Germany and Sweden.
The commission also announced Wednesday that Greece is in the process of sending back 308 migrants, deemed not to be in line for international protection, to Turkey where they came from. Even though only a start, the initiative is seen as essential to alleviate the migration pressure on the bloc.
"It has to be clear as well that those who have no right to stay in the EU will be quickly and effectively returned," said EU migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
With the rise in numbers, protests have increased in many EU nations and some have started taking independent measures through stringent quotas and barbed-wire fences to contain the influx. The go-it-alone approach has increasingly raised bad blood among the 28 EU members.
EU President Donald Tusk is traveling the Balkan region to drum up support for a unified response ahead of a summit on the issue in Brussels next Monday. And Tusk called for greater support for Greece as it struggles with the continuing inflow of people from Turkey.
"We must urgently mobilize the EU, all member states to help address the humanitarian situation of migrants in Greece and along the western Balkan route," Tusk said Wednesday in Zagreb.