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06/12/2016

NATO’s performance on migrants at sea ‘infuriates’ Tsipras

Global Europe

NATO’s performance on migrants at sea ‘infuriates’ Tsipras

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg.

[Arbeiderpartiet / Flickr]

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras contacted the head of NATO chief this week to express his dissatisfaction with the military alliance’s poor results to tackle the refugee crisis in the Aegean Sea, according to Greek media. EurActiv Greece reports.

The Greece’s leader held a telephone conversation on Wednesday (23 March) with the Secretary General of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, with the press in Athens reporting he expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that refugees continue to arrive in hundreds from neighboring Turkey.

By the second day of the EU-Turkey refugee deal’s implementation, at least 1,660 refugees had reached Greece from the Turkish coast, causing serious concern over the plan’s effectiveness.

According to the latest data on refugee flows, 49,560 refugees are so far in Greek territory, with the majority of them in northern Greece (28,061).

NATO ships gather information on the movement of vessels with refugees and illegal migrants sailing from Turkey and the potential mobility of traffickers. This data is then notified to the Greek and Turkish Coast Guard and Frontex.

It is still unclear, though, whether NATO has sent up-to-date any signal regarding traffickers’ operations.

Greek press quoted sources as saying that the Greek premier complained over the fact that NATO’s action has not produced the expected results, as the refugee flows from Turkey continue.

According to reports, Stoltenberg replied that it was too early to draw conclusions about the overall effectiveness.

Doubts over NATO’s role

In an interview with Skai TV former senior military commander of NATO in Europe (SACEUR) James Stavridis, agreed with the assessment of Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who stressed that the alliance’s operation would have nearly exclusive supervision role.

“The good news is that the surveillance information will be transferred to all the hotspots in Greece, we will be more prepared. But I do not believe that there will be real operational impact beyond surveillance. Unfortunately,” Stavridis said.

Similarly, Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, recently said that the NATO operation would help the Western allies monitor the operations of the Turkish authorities against the traffickers.

Turkey unwilling to target refugee traffickers, experts warn

Senior experts said today (17 February) that unless Turkey starts targeting the mafias helping migrants cross into Europe, the worsening refugee crisis could push the British to vote to leave the Union, and bring about other disastrous consequences.

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He called it “gimmick” as a land-based operation against traffickers in Turkey “was the answer”.

NATO confirms the call

Contacted by EurActiv Greece, a NATO official confirmed the phone conversation but declined to elaborate.

“The NATO Secretary General spoke with the Greek Prime Minister yesterday on the phone, but we cannot give you any details about their conversation,” a NATO official said.

Asked to comment on the alleged ineffectiveness of the EU-Turkey deal the official said that “this is a matter for the EU and Turkey”.

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