The year 2015 will be remembered by the horrendous stories of ordinary people who had to leave their homes, possessions, who had to made painful and dangerous voyages to reach Europe just to survive.
If you think the refuge crises was bad in 2015 it will be a lot worse in 2016.
Numbers of irregular migrants rescued from the sea by Turkish Coast Guard in the frist two months of 2015 and 2016.
First the number of people trying to cross Aegean to go To Europe has increased dramatically. According to the statistics of Turkish Coast Guard number of refuges rescued from the sea in the first two months of 2016 is 14.378. This represents an almost 10 fold increase compared to same period in 2015.
Furthermore to make the things far more worse these numbers will climb higher as thousands of Syrians are running away from their demolished villages and towns because of the indiscriminate bombing of Russian Air Force on behalf of Syrian regime. The high water mark may still to come.
And European countries are not offering the even the lukewarm welcome they have given to the refuges in 2015. Existence of these immigrants are causing sever political tensions in most of the host countries. These tensions will have dire consequences for all political parties in the next election cycle.
Since Europe doesn’t want to harbour any more refugees it is trying to stop the influx by protecting its sea borders more efficiently.
To hop across the Aegean is still the most convenient way to reach for Europe.
The Aegean Sea offers the most convenient router for the refugees. The close proximate of many Greek island to Turkish mainland makes it possible for thousands of refugees to reach to EU by entering Greece. The sea trip from Turkish mainland to Greek islands on overfilled and unstable RHIBs is often dangerous and deadly. %90 percent of 316 irregular immigration incidents in the first two months of 2016 have happened in Aegean according to Turkish Coast Guard.
Since early February, NATO, EU, Greece and Turkey are trying to formulate plans how NATO’s assigned maritime task force SNMG-2 will perform its anti-immigration operation in the Aegean Sea.
This operation was conceived right after the German Chancellor Frau Merkel’s visit to Turkey in early February 2016. Germany, Greece and Turkey proposed and in a record-breaking 3 days’ time NATO’s Foreign Ministers have approved the plan to commit SNMG-2 for this mission.
SNMG-2 currently consists of German Navy flagship FGS Bonn, Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Fredericton, Turkish Navy frigate TCG Barbaros and Greek Navy frigate HS Salamis. France and Great Britain have also disclosed that they are sending warships to reinforce the task force. The units are patrolling in the assigned areas and conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance activities.
According to a press release from 6th March, the commanders of NATO have defined SNMG-2’s area of activity in close consultation and coordination with both Greece and Turkey. Their activities in territorial waters will be carried out in consultation and coordination with both Allies. The purpose of NATO’s deployment is not to stop or push back migrant boats, but to help our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the European Union, in their efforts to tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.
NATO’s Maritime Command has also agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action in real-time.
NATO has gained some knowledge by conducting anti piracy operations in Gulf of Aden and must have the knowledge to differentiate between the small plastic boats full of immigrants and ordinary fishermen. Thus they may apply the lessons they have learned in Gulf of Aden for a good use in Aegean. I have personally talked with a few sailors of Turkish Coast Guard operation in Aegean and they are suffering from various psychological symptoms as they fish day after day dead bodies mostly children and women from the sea. Thus presence of a NATO fleet might ease their burden.
But I still have my misgiving about the intentions of NATO’s mission and I am very sceptical about this whole thing because instead of draining the swamp Europe is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that Europe uses the NATO hammer is stead of a fly swatter.