The growing problem of illegal migration in Europe, especially in Greece, highlights the chronic shortcomings of the European system of dealing with the uncontrolled entry of third country nationals, leaving the burden to be unequally shouldered by the Member States.
The recent fires in the Moria region of Lesbos have provided further evidence of the explosive situation that could ignite at any time, caused by overcrowding of the islands, the roaring trade being done by traffickers in the Aegean, failure to monitor the activities of NGOs that are receiving funding, the role of Turkey in people trafficking, the open border policy and the mass influx of third country nationals into Greece.
In a question posed to the European Commission on 23 September 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Emmanouil Fragkos of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. He asked the Commission to detail “how much funding has been allocated to NGOs concerned with irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea over the last few years and how much has been allocated to the Greek State for this purpose? “ and “How is NGO funding and activity in the Aegean being monitored?”
MEP Fragkos also asked for information regarding “who is responsible and what have been the findings?” and “does the EU impose specific conditions regarding accommodation structures (closed or open, near to or far from city centres), or is this left entirely to the discretion of the Member State?”
His question was responded to on 02 December, by the Commissioner Ylva Johansson, on behalf of the European Commission. In her answer, she reported that “under shared management, Member States are responsible for organising calls for proposals, selection of projects and award of EU funds to beneficiaries”. She shared that “a list of projects funded under the Greek National Programmes is available online” and “Non-Governmental Organisations can be main beneficiaries under the National Programmes”. She explained that “under direct management, which is the case of Emergency Assistance, Non-Governmental Organisations can only be co-beneficiaries, and not main beneficiaries” and “a list of beneficiaries in Greece is available online”.
The Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson clarified that “Non-Governmental Organisations can also apply for support under Union Actions as beneficiaries if this is stipulated in the financing decision adopting the relevant Work Programme” and “more information on beneficiaries and recipients of funds under direct management can be found in the Financial Transparency System”. She also addressed that “the monitoring of projects is done via reporting obligations of the beneficiaries of EU funding and monitoring visits carried out by the Commission staff on the ground” and “Commission staff is also present in Greece and in the islands of the Aegean to monitor the implementation of projects”.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson underlined that “EC law lays down standards for reception conditions.” She also highlighted that “the Commission has received assurances from the Greek authorities that new reception facilities funded by the EU budget will not be closed ones” and that “subject to justified restrictions, asylum-seekers will be able to enter and exit the reception facilities, with the exception of persons in detention facilities”.
Finally, the Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson declared that “the national authorities are responsible for determining the location of the facilities” and “the recently established Task Force will work with the Greek authorities to ensure that the new reception facility on Lesvos is in line with EU standards”.
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