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Parliamentary questions
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20 June 2019
Joint answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the European Commission
Written questions: P-001563/19 , P-001556/19
Question references: P-001556/2019, P-001563/2019

The Commission would like to clarify that there is no EU bank card as referred to by the Honourable Member. The provision of cash assistance to asylum-seekers and refugees in Greece is managed by the Greece Cash Alliance (GCA), which is a partnership between United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and six international Non-Governmental Organisations(1).

This scheme is part of the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA), funded under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) since January 2019(2). In Greece, 33 835 cash cards — valid only in Greece and fulfilling established criteria — have been issued and 69 052 individuals in total benefitted from cash cards until the end of March 2019(3), according to the official data provided by UNHCR.

The provision of cash assistance is based on a series of eligibility criteria set by the Greek Ministry for Migration Policy. The cash delivery system is integrated with the UNHCR corporate cash assistance management system, which facilitates tracing and tracking of the cash assistance delivered to refugees and asylum seekers.

Every holder of a cash assistance card is subject to a full registration and identification process by the Hellenic Police and the Greek Asylum Service. EU agencies such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCGA) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) support the Member State in the registration and identification procedure(4), in which the EURODAC(5) database has proven to be a useful tool.

Asylum-seekers and refugees qualifying for cash assistance, are issued a cash card. Their presence in the country and their continued eligibility for cash assistance are certified on a monthly basis to prevent duplication and fraud. The checks in place and the fact that the cash cards cannot be used outside Greece ensure that only eligible persons who are present in the country receive cash support. If a person no longer meets the criteria or if there is any attempt to use the card outside Greece, their cards are automatically cancelled.

(1)Comprised of Catholic Relief Services, the International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, the International Federation of the Red Cross, CARE and Samaritan’s Purse.
(2)ESTIA programme was funded before January 2019 through the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI).
(4)EBCGA’s ‘Operation Poseidon Sea’, for example, constitutes a multipurpose operation supporting Greece with border surveillance, saving lives at sea, registration and identification capacities and combatting cross border crime (including smuggling of illegal substances, weapons, detection of forged documents and many others).
(5)EURODAC is operated by the EU Agency for large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA). It allows Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol to compare fingerprints linked to criminal investigations with those contained in EURODAC, only for the purpose of the prevention, detection and investigation of serious crimes and terrorism and under strictly controlled circumstances and specific safeguards; in particular, by including a requirement to check all available criminal records databases first and limiting searches only to the most serious crimes, such as murder and terrorism.

Last updated: 24 June 2019Legal notice