NATO, Turkey, Greece reach agreement on migrant monitoring

7 March 2016
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation announced that its military commanders had reached an agreement with Turkey and Greece over the area of operations for the alliance mission to monitor migrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea.

NATO decided to begin a mission to monitor and deter migrants crossing the Aegean when defence ministers met in Brussels on Feb. 11. Finalising the operational details has been challenging, with Turkey raising technical questions and objections, according to organisation officials.

It is not clear how effective the mission will be in deterring asylum seekers from trying to make the dangerous crossing. NATO ships are supposed to focus on monitoring migrant ships and sending the information to the Greek and Turkish coast guards. NATO vessels won’t have a primary mission of intercepting boats, although they will rescue any migrant boats in danger of sinking and return those aboard to Turkey.

NATO and the EU border control agency Frontex also agreed to an information-sharing plan on Sunday. As part of the arrangement, NATO and Frontex will exchange liaison officers and share information about migrants making the crossing.

In a statement, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, and Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the NATO mission will be a “important contribution to international efforts to tackle smuggling.”

The agreement comes just ahead of a planned visit to NATO headquarters by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday afternoon where he will meet with Jens Stoltenberg, the organisation’s secretary-general. Turkish and NATO officials were anxious to knit together a final agreement on the mission before that meeting, according to officials.

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