NATO ships participate in Baltops 2015 / Flickr / usnavy / CC BY 2.0

In a bid to take control over the EU borders and stop the flow of migrants reaching Europe, Germany and Turkey have asked NATO for help on the Syrian border and in the Aegean Sea.

The request comes from Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Turkey on February 8.

The migration flow is expected to increase even further as the Syrian regime has gained ground and is heading towards Aleppo, the capital of the Syrian opposition, with support from the Russian air force. Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled towards the Turkish border, increasing the humanitarian crisis.

Angela Merkel, who is under heavy pressure at home, is worried that many more refugees will come to Europe and later on end up in Germany.

Nizip refugee camp in Turkey near Syrian border in September 2015 / tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/

Nizip refugee camp in Turkey near Syrian border in September 2015

Commission welcomes any support

But not all EU country members are in favour of NATO’s involvement. Greece, which has been heavily criticised for not being able to control its border with Turkey, has raised concerns.

The European Commission said during a press conference in Brussels that it’s up to NATO to decide if and how to give support. But at the same time the EU executive welcomed the Turkish-German initiative.

“Of course it is for NATO to take a decision on their opportunities and modalities of an eventual involvement. As far as we are concerned, the Commission, we welcome all discussion regarding potential measures which could contribute to addressing the refugee crisis, save lives at sea and improve the management of migratory flows and borders,” said the EU Commission spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas.

Turkey not delivering

Turkey, which has so far taken on 2,7 million refugees, at the same time is not delivering on its deal with the EU struck in October last year.

In exchange of a financial help of 3 billion euros, renewed talks on EU membership and visa liberalisations, the Turkish government promised to stop the migration flow towards Europe.

But recent statements from European Commission representatives, like Vice-president Frans Timmermans, and last figures produced by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), showed that Ankara is not delivering since around 2,000 refugees are entering Greece each day coming from Turkey.

According to the IOM, more than 70,000 migrants have reached Greece up until February 7. Last year less than 4,000 arrived in the first two months.

Yesterday AFP also reported that 24 migrants, including 11 children, drowned trying to make it to the Greek island of Lesbos.

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis observing arrival of new refugees on the beach of Skala Sikamineas village in Greece in November 2015 / ec.europa.eu

Commissioner Andriukaitis observing arrival of new refugees in Greece

Tensions between EU and Turkey

A leaked paper from a meeting in November between Turkish President Erdoğan, EU Council President Donald Tusk, and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker showed that Turkey wants more from Europe in order to stop the migration flow.

Erdoğan reportedly called the 3 billion euros an insult and he threatened to open the borders to thousands of refugees to Greece and Bulgaria.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meeting Timmermans and Hahn in Istanbul on October 15, 2015 / ec.europa.eu

Erdoğan meeting Timmermans and Hahn in Istanbul in October 2015

The Netherlands, currently holding the rotating EU presidency, are working on a plan to resettle refugees directly from Turkey to European countries who are willing to join such a scheme.

Though, so far little progress has been made on a temporary resettlement within the EU. Of the 160,000 to be resettled, less than 500 have been moved to other EU member states.

Angela Merkel is supportive of the Dutch plan to relocate some 200,000 – 300,000 refugees from Turkey to the EU if Turkey stops the migratory flow.

The EU heads of state or government will discuss the refugee crisis next week in Brussels.

  • Author: Andreas Liljeheden, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1) Nizip refugee camp in Turkey near Syrian border in September 2015 / tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/ | (middle 2) Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis observing arrival of new refugees on the beach of Skala Sikamineas village in Greece in November 2015 / ec.europa.eu | (middle 3) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meeting Timmermans and Hahn in Istanbul on October 15, 2015 / ec.europa.eu