In efforts to curb the number of incoming refugees via illegal means, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has ordered the immediate deployment of Alliance ships to the Aegean, following a request from Greece, Turkey and Germany, at a defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels earlier this week.
The mission, Mr Stoltenberg explained, would be more about “monitoring and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks” rather than “stopping or pushing back refugee boats”. In the meantime, refugees picked up by NATO forces will be returned to Turkey.
The decision to deploy warships under German command to the region to put a halt to smugglers mainly from Turkey transporting refugees by sea into Europe through Greece, is expected to materialize within the next 24 hours and marks NATO’s first intervention in the refugee crisis.
The move aims to help Turkey and Greece “manage a human tragedy in a better way than we have managed to do so far”, said Mr Stoltenberg, who added that more Alliance ships would be deployed to the area if needed.
Meanwhile, Greek and Turkish coastguards will each continue to operate within their own territorial waters, Reuters reports.