Home / Human Rights / NATO’s Military Ships: Rescuing Refugees or Protecting Europe?

NATO’s Military Ships: Rescuing Refugees or Protecting Europe?

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)


Tuesday’s rescue missions on the Mediterranean saved 945 refugees and migrants about 48 kilometers off Libya’s coast, reported the Italian coast guard. The first three missions were launched by Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), the Italian Coast Guard and the Italian Navy with assistance from two humanitarian groups known as Emergency and Doctors Without Borders. The German group known as Sea-Watch along with the European Union’s (EU) rescue ship Reina Sofia also assisted in Tuesday’s rescue missions.

The coast guard is able to keep track of the numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea since humanitarian groups are instructed to let the coast guard know when they are moving refugees onto rescue boats.

At the NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, this weekend NATO announced that it has been in talks with the EU to develop a strategy to regulate the flow of refugees and migrants from Africa to Europe. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general announced that NATO has recently changed the nature of mission Active Endeavour, originally focused preventing terrorist attacks on ships shipping goods going through Straits of Gibraltar, “into a broader security mission called Sea Guardian.”

“We intend to work closely with the European Union’s operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, building on our swift and effective cooperation with the EU to cut lines of international human trafficking in the Aegean,” said Stoltenberg.

Many major international NGOs raised grave concerns over NATO and the EU’s manner of dealing with the refugee crisis. Some of the NGOs have even committed to boycotting the EU by refusing to take funding in protest.

“Nato’s involvement in migration control signals a dangerous shift toward militarisation of a humanitarian crisis”, said Human Rights Watch’s associate director Judith Sunderland.

NATO and the EU have announced plans to increase their military presence in the Mediterranean Sea to keep the threat of ISIS away from its borders while the refugees fleeing their countries from the very same, if not very similar, threat.

Sunderland called on the EU to “expand safe and legal routes to Europe” for refugees and migrants instead of shutting off European borders for people fleeing war, oppression and catastrophe.

“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,” Sunderland said.

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