The former flagship of Standing Nato Maritime Group 2, FGS Hamburg (far left), refuelling from from USNS Bridge with USS Dwight D Eisenhower on the right US Navy (Released)
Announcing the deployment, which will see refugee boats met by warships rather than coastguards, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said action would be taken “without delay”.
It comes after Greece declared Turkey a “safe third country”, giving it the legal framework to turn back asylum-seekers and to actively deport those who have arrived back across the Mediterranean.
In a press conference, Mr Stoltenberg insisted the deployment of Nato’s Standing Maritime Group 2 was “not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats”.
The fleet, including warships from a range of Western countries and currently under German command, “will be tasked to conduct reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of the illegal crossings in the Aegean sea in cooperation with relevant authorities”, he said.
At the same time, it was announced that Nato will step up its counter-terror efforts on the border between Turkey and Syria. And Mr Stoltenberg said Nato would “step up” its efforts in the international coalition against Isis, following a request from the US.
“We have just agreed that NATO will provide support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis,” Mr Stoltenberg said.
“The goal is to participate in the international efforts to stem the illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean.” “It is important to respond swiftly,” he said. “Because this crisis affects all of us.”