NATO warships head to Aegean Sea to help with migrant crisis

CTV News has learned that HMCS Fredericton will be among three ships that NATO has just announced it is sending to the Aegean Sea to monitor the ongoing refugee crisis.

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the NATO Maritime Group is being ordered immediately into the Aegean to help end illegal human smuggling of migrants between Turkey and Greece, a situation he called a "human tragedy.”

Three NATO allies -- Turkey, Germany and Greece -- had requested NATO's help in an international effort to end the most intense migration crisis Europe has experienced since the Second World War.

HMCS Fredericton is part of NATO Maritime Standing Group 2, a flotilla that also consists of German navy flagship The Bonn, and the Barbaros from Turkey.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the warships "will start to move now" to provide surveillance of criminal networks working in the waters. They will then relay the information to the Greek and Turkish coast guards and other authorities, Stoltenberg said.

"This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats," Stoltenberg stressed.

"…This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation.”

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 409 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece and between north Africa and Italy.

It added that nearly 10 times as many migrants crossed in the first six weeks of 2016 as in the same period last year.

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said NATO military authorities also will draw up plans for how the alliance could further act to help shut down illegal human smuggling in the region.

With reports from The Associated Press



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