UK to deploy ships to NATO's refugee mission in Aegean Sea

UK will send its send several vessels to join NATO’s operation in Aegean Sea to reduce refugee flow into Europe

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Nato's Standing Maritime Group 2 is being sent to the Aegean Sea.

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday that Britain would send its several vessels to help a NATO mission in the Aegean Sea that aims to reduce refugee flow into Europe.

"This migration crisis is the greatest challenge facing Europe today," Cameron said in a statement released before attending a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

The NATO claims its operations also aim to tackle people smugglers in the Aegean.

“We’ve got to break the business model of the criminal smugglers and stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey.”

The prime minister said that the Royal Navy would send the amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay, which would attend two border force cutters and a chartered civilian vessel already in Aegean Sea, a key transition zone for refugees to reach Europe.

The operations are continuing with the participation of German, Canadian, Turkish and Greek boats.

Cameron defined the mission as an opportunity to give a clear message to refugees thinking to travel to Europe that they will be returned.

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.

Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria following the escalation of the Syrian civil war in 2012.

One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts the most Syrian refugees in the world according to registration records of the United Nations.

Turkey has spent nearly $10 billion of its own resources on the refugees whose number in the country has been climbing to 2.7 million.

Scores of refugee camps are seen in the image from Turkeys southern province of Kilis bordering Syria. (AA Archive)

The EU agreed a 3 billion euros ($3.3 bln) aid deal with Turkey to help it shelter refugees mainly from the Syrian civil war, in return for preventing their travelling into Europe.

EU leaders want to see results before key talks with Turkey on March 7 and their own refugee summit on March 18-19.

TRTWorld and agencies