The European Union on Tuesday approved 83 million euros (93.8 million dollars) aimed at improving conditions for refugees in Greece, in its first disbursement under a mechanism set up to provide humanitarian aid within the bloc.

Economically embattled Greece has been the main point of arrival for migrants and asylum seekers entering Europe, with most of them crossing by sea from Turkey until a deal was struck with Ankara last month to return people.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides was in Greece on Tuesday to sign the first aid contracts, with funding going to the UN refugee agency, the International Federation of the Red Cross and six other aid organizations.

The money will help provide tens of thousands of people in Greece with healthcare, food, better hygiene conditions, temporary housing and child-friendly spaces, the European Commission said in a statement.

"We have to restore dignified living conditions for refugees and migrants in Europe as swiftly as possible," Stylianides said. Greece is hosting around 50,000 people, he added, noting that more than twice that number had crossed the country this year.

Most of those arriving in Greece have sought to travel onwards to wealthy northern European states, but that route has effectively been sealed off as the countries along it have closed their borders to migrants and asylum seekers.

"The humanitarian crisis which is taking place in Greece is a European humanitarian crisis which in fact is stemming from a European problem," said Ioannis Mouzalas, the Greek minister in charge of migration issues.

He stressed the importance of striking a balance between the welfare of host communities and the dignity of refugees.

The commission has proposed an initial 700 million euros in overall humanitarian spending on refugees within the EU for 2016 and the next two years.

Also Tuesday, the commission approved 110 million euros to help migrants and asylum seekers in Turkey, out of a 3-billion-euro facility agreed as part of the migration deal with Ankara.

Of this, 60 million euros will go towards food, healthcare and accommodation for migrants who have been returned from Greece to Turkey under the deal. The remaining 50 million euros will address the immediate needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey, the commission said.

The migration deal struck between the EU and Turkey is "starting to work," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday. He referred to a "sharp decline" in people undertaking the sea journey to Greece during comments to the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog.

Under the EU-Turkey deal, the EU will take in one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian returned there from Greece.

The Council of Europe is due to assess the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Greece and Turkey under the deal, as part of its responsibility for making sure that their basic rights are being respected.

Related stories

EU provides 115 million euros in aid for refugees in Greece

Macedonia reopens border

EU-Turkey deal not yet forcing the return of Syrians from Greece

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.