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EU Pumps 43.7 Million Euros into Greek Refugee, Migrant Centers

Αssociated press

FILE - In this Wednesday, May, 2, 2018, file photo, children play inside the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File).

With human rights groups continuing a fusillade of complaints over conditions in Greece's refugee and migrant detention centers holding more than 64,000 people, including 15,000 on islands near Turkey, the European Commission is releasing 43.7 million euros ($49.45 million) to help improve them.

The grant, which comes from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, is designed to support the provision of emergency shelter for up to 6,000 asylum seekers and refugees by rapidly establishing places in temporary accommodation facilities, the European Commission said.

“The funding aims to provide dignified accommodation as well as basic assistance and protection services to the most vulnerable migrants in Greece, especially in view of the upcoming winter months and the need to decongest reception facilities on the Greek islands,” it said.

The Commission has awarded more than 1.6 billion euros ($1.81 billion) in funding since 2015 for the refugee crisis but Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) who are junior partners in the coalition headed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA was charged by a newspaper with directing contracts for the centers to business friends but isn't being investigated.

Earlier in November, The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) – again – said it is anxious that conditions in detention centers and camps will just get worse with the onset of winter, joining a chorus of complainers ignored by the government.

Describing living conditions at the camps as “abhorrent,” UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said the agency fears they won’t get better, especially the Moria camp om Lesnos the BBC called “the worst in the world,” and another on Samos.

Greek islands near the Turkish coast have been overwhelmed for three years with Turkey allowing human traffickers to send refugees and migrants, even now during a suspended European Union swap deal that is supposed to see those not deemed eligible for asylum returned to Turkey.

“With winter approaching and more people arriving, time is of the essence and emergency measures are needed,” Yaxley said. The UNHCR welcomed plans to create space for another 6,000 people in mainland camps holding some 50,000 aleady but said the 11,000 arrivals in the last three months have “outpaced” departures.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said Greece must urgently adopt long-term measures to improve the reception and integration of migrants but there was no response from the government which has also not taken heed of warnings from some 20 human rights and activist groups about conditions in the centers and camps.