EU pledges €1 billion to UN agencies for Syrian refugees in Middle East
The aid package was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk at the crisis summit early on Thursday.
“Tonight our decision was based on fact, not emotion,” Tusk said. “Leaders have agreed on increased help to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region. More assistance will be offered for reinforced cooperation. At least an additional 1 billion euro will be mobilized for help to the refugees in the region via UN agencies.”
“The measures we have agreed today will not end the crisis. But they are all necessary steps in the right direction,” Tusk said after the meeting, which ran over seven hours.
There is also a separate meeting scheduled with Turkey on October 5 to discuss the possibility of limiting the number of refugees traveling from Ankara to Greece.
A draft statement quoted by AFP earlier on Wednesday said that European Union leaders will “respond to the urgent needs of refugees in the region by helping the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Program and other agencies with at least an additional 1 billion euro.”
Tusk also said in an invitation letter to the summit that the issue “could not wait,” insisting that the countries make pledges immediately. He wrote that the World Food Program (WFP) desperately needs money “to provide food to 11 million people in Syria and in the region. The WFP has already substantially cut food support to refugees.”
Top EU leaders also discussed tightening the bloc’s external frontiers during the summit, which was reportedly conducted in an “excellent” atmosphere, Reuters cited sources as saying.
“Hotspots” (special reception centers) for refugees will be set up at the EU’s external borders and will be functional at the end of November, Tusk said. EU officers will be in charge of quickly registering and identify those who are eligible for refugee status.
According to Tusk, EU countries have agreed to help Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region in handling the Syrian refugee crisis. There will be a significant increase in the EU’s Regional Trust Fund for the asylum seekers, Tusk added.
“Today we are talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands” he said.
“It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come. Therefore we need to correct the policy of open doors and windows. Now the focus should be on the proper protection of our external borders and on external assistance to refugees and the countries in our neighborhood,” Tusk stated at the press conference.