EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced on Thursday it will pay €2,000 (£1,770; $2,225) each to migrants in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands go back to their home countries.
The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin, under voluntary returns programmes run by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM). The extra money will come from the €700m emergency aid for Greece from the EU budget promised by the commission earlier this month. 5,000 migrants would be eligible for the "voluntary return" but Greek islands have nearly 42,000 asylum seekers. Many of the migrants are Syrians fleeing the civil war, but there are also Afghans, Pakistanis and West Africans. Greece has temporarily suspended its processing of new asylum applications.
Repatriation of migrants from the islands would be coordinated with the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU border force Frontex. Around 1,600 unaccompanied children on the Greek islands will be distributed among seven countries: Croatia, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal.