The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has put out an appeal for millions of dollars’ worth of extra charitable funding to help migrants in the Balkans, claiming that their original target of $555 million is now not enough.
In January, the UNHCR, along with approximately 60 partnership organisations, launched the Refugee and Migrant Response Plan to raise funds for migrants living along the migration route in Greece and throughout the Balkans. Setting a target of around $555 million, they estimated that the figure would be sufficient until the end of the year, Voice of America has reported.
But barely six months into the year they are revising their target upwards – to a staggering $670 million for this year alone, they say because of the border closures in the Balkans and the EU / Turkey agreement, which was designed to stem the flow of migrants.
“These developments have had a significant impact on the numbers of refugees and migrants arriving, with a decrease in the number of people along the Western Balkans route and an increase in the number of people remaining in Greece,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told journalists yesterday.
He explained that 57,000 migrants are now living in Greece, both on the mainland and on the islands, putting enormous pressure on the country’s ability to cater for them. Consequently, the UNHCR and its partners are shifting their focus from people on the move to the static migrant population.
“The financial requirements to implement the plan have been adjusted to reflect the change in circumstances. They currently stand at almost 670 million US dollars for 2016, of which contributions of 328.8 million US dollars have been received,” Spindler said.
The British government has already donated £2.3 billion of British taxpayers’ money to help refugees in Syria, while also contributing funds towards the £1.8 billion given to the country by the EU, and the £2 billion so far handed over to Turkey as part of a deal which will eventually see £6 billion awarded to the country in return for dealing with the migrants.
In addition, a new European Border and Coast Guard to intercept migrant boats and man checkpoints will cost £945 million by 2020, including £219 million to be spent next year.
A further £1.4 billion will be spent on the EU’s single asylum system, with the money going on an IT system, new accommodation centres and transporting asylum seekers around the continent.
Despite the eye-watering figures, the EU commission has warned member state governments to put even more aside next year to be spent on the migrant crisis.
Last week the EU vice president for budgets, Kristalina Georgieva, told the Chinese State media agency Xinhua: “We have to make sure that our budget for next year absorbs all the commitments made so far to deal with the migration crisis, while at the same time making room for new commitments.
“We have exhausted to a great extent flexibilities offered within the budget. Member states and the European Parliament need to allow more room for flexibilities.”
MEPs hearings on the draft budget for 2017, and a vote on the budget over the next seven years have both been delayed until the end of the month to avoid bad news for the British ahead of the referendum on EU membership, the Telegraph reported.
Yet in addition to all of this tax-money largesse, the UNHCR has no compunction in asking those same taxpayers to hand over charitable donations to help migrants, and neither do their partner organisations.
Using stories of five-year old children fleeing war zones designed to tug at the heart-strings, the charities urge people who have already donated to the migrant crisis through their taxes to do so again via monthly direct debit payments.
“£10 could help provide school books to help make sure displaced children have access to education,” the website for Action Aid claims, while “£15 could help provide a displaced mother with a safe and clean space to recover from trauma.” No mention is made of the majority of the migrants: fit men of working age.