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#NATO officers arrived in Lesvos, flotilla expected tomorrow, while #smugglers warn they won’t be stopped

Smugglers: NATO won’t disrupt our networks

People smugglers in Turkey have told Sky News NATO’s warships will not be able to stem the flow of migrants and refugees heading across the Aegean Sea to Europe, or disrupt their networks.

 

Mohammed has been involved in the human smuggling trade for the last two years.

He said to Sky News, the gangs are too well organised and there’s too much money involved for it to be halted.

“The smuggling will not stop – as long as people want to be smuggled the smuggling networks will continue to operate,” Mohammed told Sky News.

“Turkey has tried to stop it but we the smugglers are well prepared and are always one step ahead.

“We don’t bribe the police but if one policeman or two finds out about our operations they will come to the smuggler and tell him we know what you are doing – then the smuggler will bribe him with a few hundred dollars.”

NATO says its mission will not be involved in rescuing migrants, or turning their flimsy crafts around and away from Europe.

 

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The German supply ship Bonn, which will lead the Nato flotilla heading for the Aegean Sea Photograph: Ingo Wagner/AP

 

 NATO ships expected to arrive on February 19th

Defence ministers from the 28 countries in the US-led military alliance agreed in principle to the mission and have asked officials to look at a variety of options for establishing patrols along the Turkish and Greek coasts and other smuggling routes. Several member states have offered to send reinforcements to the three-ship mission.

The Nato intervention is justified as an attack on human traffickers,

US defence secretary Ashton Carter explained. “There is now a criminal syndicate that is exploiting these poor people and this is an organised smuggling operation.”

The NATO ships have been ordered to the Aegean to begin the mission “without delay”, and are expected to be in place on Friday, even though the details of their role are still being filled in, said US air force general Philip Breedlove.

“This mission has literally come together in about the last 20 hours,” Breedlove told journalists. “I have been tasked now to go back and define the mission, define the rules of engagement, define all of what we call special operation instructions, all of the things that will lay out what we are going to do.”

He declined to comment on whether the Nato crews would join local coastguards in rescuing migrants whose boats had sunk or were failing.

The Bonn patrol

Nato has sent a patrol of three warships to intercept migrants trying to reach Greece by sea and send them back to Turkey, as Europe steps up efforts to contain the refugee crisis.

The Nato flotilla will be led by the German navy’s flagship, the Bonn, supported by Turkey’s frigate Barbaros and the Canadian frigate, Fredericton.

The German-led patrol will be backed by planes that can monitor the flow of people attempting illegal crossings.

Greece and Turkey have agreed that any migrants they intercept will be sent back.

“They will not be taken back to Greece. The aim of the group is to have them taken back to Turkey. That is the crucial difference,” said the British defence secretary, Michael Fallon.

“This is the first time we have seen a group tasked with returning migrants. That has not happened before. So that is quite an important development.”

The UK does not have any ships involved but is looking at how it could contribute, Fallon told journalists after a meeting of defence ministers in Brussels, where the plan was hammered out.

“It could definitely help save lives in the Aegean and it could help break the criminal gangs that are trafficking migrants from Turkey into Europe,” he added.

The NATO alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, initially denied that the ships would try to stop people from crossing into Europe. “This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” he said.

Germany’s defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, had already indicated she favoured a far more robust approach and had secured Ankara’s permission to send some refugees back to Turkey, the Deutsche Welle newspaper reported.

the smugglers network

For Turkey and its smugglers, the flow of people is big business. Each dinghy crammed full of desperate people is estimated to generate €50,000, the middleeastmonitor.com writes.

At night, when busses fill up far away from the coast in Turkey, the smugglers are let through depending on the fluctuating regulations, to make good business sense the article adds.

“The government cracks down on certain crossings, changing the flow of refugees to Lesvos; at the moment the refugees arrive on the north coast of the island. The Turkish government had a crackdown on smugglers from Izmir aiming for the south of Lesvos, an hour-long, lethal journey with faulty lifejackets and dinghies in choppy waters, so they find themselves capitalising instead on the five times longer and thus five times more dangerous route to arrive on the north coast. People have to pay €1,500 to risk their lives crossing the Aegean on a good day (many times more expensive than an official, and safe, ferry); when it is windy the charge is €500 or €700 at night, when the chance of survival decreases. This is how the smugglers capitalise on the status of extremely vulnerable people fleeing from war.”

Greece out of Schengen , not the solution

Excluding Greece from the passport-free Schengen area will not solve Europe’s migrant problem, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday after meeting Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens.

“Let me be clear, excluding Greece from Schengen solves none of our problems,” Tusk told reporters

Council President acknowledged the crisis was testing European cohesion to its limits.

“For all those talking of excluding Greece from Schengen, thinking this is a solution to the migration crisis, I say no, it is not.

Visit our Aegean Borders Special Page on greek2m.org

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Aegean Borders by greek2m.org

 

 

 

 

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