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NATO to Join Forces with EU to Halt Flow of Refugees into Europe

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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The announcement was made by Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, during the NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland that took place this weekend.

“We have decided to transform operation Active Endeavour into a broader security mission called Sea Guardian”, Stoltenberg explained.

Active Endeavour is a NATO operation created after the 9/11 attacks to secure the Strait of Gibraltar from any potential attacks.

Stoltenberg explained NATO’s collaboration with the EU saying NATO “intend to work closely with the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, building on our (NATO’s) swift and effective cooperation with the EU to cut lines of international human trafficking in the Aegean.”

Operation Sophia was initiated last year by the EU as a naval operation to regulate the flow of refugees fleeing from Libya to Italy.

Aegean was mentioned in reference to when NATO sent seven warships to impose a decision made in February to put an end to refugees making the trip to Greece from Turkey.

At the NATO summit NATO committed to offer assistance to the EU with its Operation Sophia by providing “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” in addition to “capacity building of the Libyan coast guard and navy”.

The, so-called, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that made its way to Libya in 2014 compelled NATO to expand its Sea Guardian efforts to “have a broad scope, including providing situational awareness, countering trafficking and terrorism, upholding freedom of navigation and contributing to regional capacity building”.

NATO leaders commented about the impact that the joint EU-NATO operation in the Aegean decreased the number of refugees fleeing Turkey for Greece from 2,000 per day to less than 70.  EU and NATO are hoping to have the same results with the number of refugees leaving Libya for Italy.

Critics spoke against NATO’s plans calling them a “militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.” According to NATO refugees fleeing Libya and other war-torn countries for safety, security, and a dignified life pose a threat to Europe. Stoltenberg further claimed that the seriousness of the “threat” posed by refugees demands a “joint effort.”

Prominent humanitarian organizations spoke against the way EU and NATO are dealing with refugees fleeing to Italy from Libya in search of a better life.

Doctors Without Borders is one of the organizations boycotting EU funds and initiatives to highlight their disapproval of the EU-NATO efforts to stop the flow of refugees.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) also spoke out against NATO’s announcement. Judith Sunderland, the associate director of HRW, said, “NATO’s involvement in migration control signals a dangerous shift toward militarisation of a humanitarian crisis.”

Sunderland called on the EU to “expand safe and legal routes to Europe.”

She also added that “NATO help for EU operations should avoid trapping people in lawless and violent Libya, either through forced returns or asking Libyan forces to send people back”.

US President Barack Obama also spoke at the NATO summit saying that the refugees are a benefit for Europe’s economy. Obama praised the German chancellor Angela Merkel saying Merkel “deserves enormous credit” for welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees in Germany.

Obama explained that “it’s economics 101 – if you’ve got a younger population, your growth rate is going to be higher, and immigrants are strivers and they work hard.”

He then reasoned with the EU-NATO operation saying the “huge influxes of the sort that we’ve seen in Europe – that’s always going to be a shock to the system”.

“It’s a strain on the budget. It’s a strain on politics. It’s a strain on culture. It’s legitimate for them [EU leaders] to say: ‘Look, we’ve got to slow this thing down. We’ve got to manage it properly,” Obama said.

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