Saturday

17th Feb 2018

Nato to help Turkey and Greece 'stem flow' of refugees

  • Nato's three Aegean-bound ships held drill with Turkish vessels in eastern Mediterranean Sea last weekend (Photo: nato.int)

Nato will “immediately” move three naval ships to the Aegean Sea to help Greek and Turkish coastguards to “stem the flow” of migrants trying to get to Europe.

Nato head Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision in Brussels on Thursday (11 January), saying it was designed to "stem illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Stoltenberg: "This isn’t about stopping or pushing back refugee boats" (Photo: nato.int)

“It’ll help to stem the flow of refugees, to manage the human tragedy in better ways than we’ve able to do so far,” he said.

He declined to say whether the vessels would rescue migrants if they encountered a sinking boat.

But he said: “This isn’t about stopping or pushing back refugee boats … [We’ll] provide high-quality information to the coastguard of Turkey and the coastguard of Greece and the efforts of the European Union.”

He noted that Saceur, Nato's operational headquarters in Belgium, would instruct a "standing maritime group which is already in the region" to "move now … immediately".

The vessels, which are already in the eastern Mediterranean, consist of a German supply ship, FGS Bonn, which is in command of the operation, a Turkish frigate, TCG Barbaros, and a Canadian frigate, HMCS Fredericton.

Stoltenberg said he expected other Nato states to reinforce it “in the near future”.

He also said Nato surveillance planes would help to gather information about migrants on the Syria-Turkey land border.

The Aegean operation comes after Germany, Greece and Turkey made a surprise joint request earlier this week for Nato help.

But Stoltenberg noted that Turkish military assets would not operate in Greek maritime zones or in Greek airspace, amid the 40-year old Greek-Turkish dispute over northern Cyprus.

He said Nato would share its Aegean surveillance data with the EU’s border-control agency, Frontex, and with EU institutions more broadly.

But with the Cyprus dispute also clouding EU-Nato information exchange, the Nato chief noted that new protocols for the EU cooperation must first be put in place.

The request for Nato aid came after more than 1 million asylum seekers, most of them Syrians, came to the EU last year.

The EU had earlier asked Turkey to stop the migrants in return for €3 billion in aid and a more orderly “relocation” scheme to Europe.

But the EU still has not paid out any money and Turkey has rejected the relocation idea, while the number of people crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands is higher now than at the same time last year.

The EU launched its own naval operation last year, named Sophia, to stop people smugglers on the Libya-Italy maritime route.

But the vast majority of asylum seekers began coming via the Aegean route shortly after Sophia started work.

An EU source told EUobserver that Sophia has, in the past five months, mostly rescued migrants and brought them to EU shores instead of cracking down on smuggler groups.

"It's doing the opposite of what it was meant to do because it encourages more people to try to make the sea crossing," the source said.

Blocking Russia

Stoltenberg spoke after a meeting of Nato defence ministers, which also agreed to help the US-led anti-jihadist coalition in Syria and to post more troops to eastern Europe to deter Russian aggression.

He said so-called Awacs radar planes will help the US, which requested the Nato aid, to conduct more air strikes against Islamic State.

On Russia, he said Nato did not see any “imminent threat” that Russia would attack one of its easterly member states.

But he said its vast hike in military spending, holding of snap military drills in the Ukraine and Baltic Sea regions and its “willingness to use force to intimidate neighbours and to change borders in Europe” merit posting more troops to eastern Europe.

His comment on changing borders refers to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula, two years ago.

EU: Turkey must do more to stop migrant flow

Arrivals from Turkey still higher than last year despite joint EU plan. "The Turkish authorities, if they really want, can do the job on the ground," the EU migration commissioner said.

Germany, Turkey want Nato help to police coast

Germany and Turkey want to stop people-smugglers in the Aegean Sea, as tens of thousands of new Syria refugees mass on Turkey's borders amid Assad's siege of Aleppo.

Greek EU commissioner challenges bribery allegations

Dimitris Avramopoulos says he will mount a legal challenge to reveal the identities of people behind allegations that he, along with other former Greek ministers, had accepted money from a Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  2. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  3. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  4. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  6. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  7. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  8. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  9. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  10. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  11. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  12. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  4. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  6. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  8. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  10. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  12. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%