Migrants make their way to buses to travel to a different shelter, from a temporary registration centre in the village of Schwarzenborn, northeast of Frankfurt, Germany, 15 October 2015. Approximately 350 migrants are currently residing in tents at the temporary centre.
Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
International affairs: EU states are using economic development funds to support local asylum seekers instead of boosting poorer countries, says NGO.
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - European countries are increasingly diverting money from overseas aid budgets to care for refugees and asylum seekers at home, a leading aid body said on Tuesday.
More than 850,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe so far this year by sea, and governments and aid agencies have found it hard to cope because of the size of the influx.
Britain, one of the world’s most generous countries in terms of foreign aid as a percentage of gross national income, said in September that it would use part of its overseas aid budget to accommodate refugees, as did Sweden, another big donor.
“We recognize the urgent nature of the current refugee crisis, but remain convinced that aid should be used to support development in third countries,” said Jessica Poh-Janrell from CONCORD Sweden.
“The world’s poorest should not foot the bill for the refugee costs in Europe.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose country’s overseas aid budget was $17.8 billion last year, also announced plans on Monday to spend a larger proportion of the aid budget on “fragile states and regions to tackle the root causes of conflict”.
The European Union has committed itself to giving the equivalent of 0.7 percent of national income in aid by this year but the current figure is just 0.42 percent according to Concord, a European confederation of relief and development groups.
Just four countries managed to hit the 0.7 percent target: Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and Britain. Two-thirds of EU member states provided less than 0.2 percent of national income in aid in 2014, and several reduced their aid, among them Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Aid from European countries is often seen as coming with conditions attached, Concord said, while cash committed to development is sometimes relabelled later as “climate finance” to meet separate promises to tackle global warming.
World leaders recently agreed a plan to end poverty and inequality worldwide in the next 15 years, adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To make this plan work, the European Union needs to hit the 0.7 percent aid/national income target by 2020, in line with commitments made at a United Nations summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in June, Concord’s Amy Dodd said.
Double counting and the diverting of aid cash to help refugees in the donor country, means much of the money intended for the world’s poorest people is not reaching them, Concord said.
“Continuing investment in fighting poverty and inequality in developing countries is ultimately the most sustainable way of dealing with the crisis in the long term,” said Poh-Janrell.