NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the group is being sent in the Aegean Sea ‘to help counter human trafficking’
Brussels: NATO is sending a naval group “without delay” to stop people smugglers in the Aegean Sea, following a request from Germany, Greece and Turkey, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. Pic/AFP
NATO “is now directing the standing maritime group to move into the Aegean without delay and start maritime surveillance activities,” Stoltenberg told a press conference after alliance defence ministers backed the move.
He said the migrant crisis, driven by conflict and turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa, was the worst since World War II and posed a major security threat to the 28-nation alliance.
NATO Standing Maritime Group 2, currently under German command, comprises three ships and allies had promised more so it can carry out “reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance in the Aegean Sea,” he said. “This is not about stopping and pushing back (refugees)...but about critical surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks,” he said. NATO would work closely with the European Union and its border control agency Frontex, he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined forces with Turkey on Monday to request help from the 28-nation alliance as thousands more refugees fled heavy fighting around the Syrian city of Aleppo. Turkey — the only Muslim-majority nation in NATO and with one of its largest armies — was the main transit country for more than one million migrants who reached Europe last year.