BELGRADE – The Syria trust fund, used to help Syrian refugees and overstretched host communities in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, will also be used to help keep in place the migrants who made it to FYROM (Macedonia) and Serbia, an EU official said on Monday.

Berkasovo, 20. oktobra 2015 - Migranti sa Bliskog istoka u privremenom smestaju u blizini srpsko-hrvatske granice kod Berkasova. Na granici izmedju Srbije i Hrvatske vise stotina izbeglica sa Bliskog istoka ceka da udje u Hrvatsku, posto je prelaz Berkasovo-Bapska, kod Sida, hrvatska granicna policija zatvorila u 11 sati. FOTO TANJUG / MARKO DJOKOVIC / tj

EU officials briefed the Brussels press ahead of the Supporting Syria and the Region conference to be held in London on 4 February, reports.

“The European Union will be playing a major role in this conference, because we can, and because we need to”, an EU official told the press. He pointed out that the Syrian war had affected the EU both with the refugee crisis and with terrorist attacks.

An official said that the so-called EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, also known as Madad fund, which the EU established in December 2014, would also help keep refugees in Macedonia and Serbia. The Arabic name of the Trust Fund ‘Madad’ broadly means providing aid and help jointly with others.

“The fund has a total firepower of €650 million, and money is used to finance the resilience of the refugees, meaning keeping them where they are, mainly in Jordan and Lebanon”, the official explained, adding:

“But we will start operating also in the Western Balkans, for those refugees that made it to FYROM [Former Yugoslav Repubic of Macedonia] and to Serbia for instance”, he said, using the politically-correct acronym to designate Macedonia.

Last October Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called a Western Balkan mini-summit with the aim of slowing down the flux of refugees along the “Balkan route” through Macedonia and Serbia.

The final communiqué of this summit mentioned a Greek commitment to increase to 30,000 by the end of 2016 the number of places it hosts. A further 20,000 people should be sheltered in private accommodation in Greece, the statement said, while another 50,000 places should be available in countries further north. The names of the countries are not mentioned.

It is the first time that an EU official has spokean about “keeping refugees where they are”, referring to Macedonia and Serbia. These countries do not want to become a buffer zone, and moreover, most of the migrants have no intention of settling there, instead usually trying to cross these countries as fast as they can, on their way to wealthier countries such as Austria and Germany.

European governments and EU institutions in Brussels are seeking to respond to a call by Britain, Germany and Norway, which are hosting the conference in London along with the United Nations and Kuwait, to double humanitarian aid to the region.

The London conference roughly coincides with the fifth anniversary since the Syrian crisis started. The event will build on three previous conferences hosted in Kuwait.

The European Union is set to promise some €2.2 billion at the conference, journalists were told. The 2016 UN inter-agency appeals for the Syria crisis are an estimated US$7.73 billion.