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NATO Warships to Help Ease Migrant Crisis

NATO Warships to Help Ease Migrant CrisisNATO Warships to Help Ease Migrant Crisis

In a dramatic response to Europe’s gravest refugee crisis since World War II, NATO ordered three warships to sail immediately on Thursday to the Aegean Sea to help end the deadly smuggling of asylum-seekers across the waters from Turkey to Greece.

“This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation ... a human tragedy,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Reuters reported.

Yet even after the ships were told to get underway, NATO officials acknowledged uncertainties about the precise actions they would be performing, including whether they would take part in operations to rescue drowning migrants.

The arrival of more than a million people in Europe in 2015—mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans—has plunged the 28-nation European Union into what some see as the most serious crisis in its history.

Despite winter weather, the onslaught of refugees crossing the Aegean has not let up. The International Organization for Migration said this week that 76,000 people—nearly 2,000 per day—have reached Europe by sea this year and 409 of them have died trying, most drowning in the cold, rough waters.

The number of arrivals in the first six weeks of 2016 is nearly 10 times as many as the same period last year. Most come from Turkey to Greece and then try to head north through the Balkans to the EU’s more prosperous countries such as Germany and Sweden.

An official with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders, however, said the NATO and EU actions “miss the point”.

“More than 300 men, women and children have drowned in the Aegean in their desperate attempts to reach Europe this year alone,” said Aurelie Ponthieu, the group’s humanitarian adviser.

“In this context, NATO’s involvement in the “surveillance of illegal crossings” is dangerously shortsighted. People will continue to risk their lives in search of safety and protection, no matter the obstacles that the EU and now the leaders of the NATO alliance put in their way.”

“How many deaths will it take before Europe, Turkey and others focus their energy on providing humanitarian solutions rather than deterrence measures that clearly miss the point?” she asked.

Financialtribune.com