Smugglers working around NATO patrols in the Aegean, commander says

People smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece are changing their routes to avoid NATO vessels deployed to the Aegean Sea, and the flow of migrants to the Greek islands has not dropped, a commander said.

Around 20 to 40 boats are still making the crossing every day, by adapting the route according to where the seven NATO vessels are, Commander Joerg Klein told dpa.

"When we're in the right place, we have an impact," he said. "But the smugglers are very flexible and can shift the focus of their operations."

A NATO presence at a few isolated stretches of coastline will not be enough, according to Klein, who is also captain of the supply ship Bonn.

"If they sealed off Lesbos completely, then we could expect the flow of migrants to seek out a new route," he said, referring to the Greek island fewer than 20 kilometres off the Turkish coast.

The number of migrants landing on Lesbos and other islands per day has barely changed since the NATO deployment in the Mediterannean last month, which for the moment is limited to the sea between Lesbos and Turkey.

"It would be a good idea - and is planned - to extend NATO's activity as soon as possible to other coastal waters in the Aegean," Klein said.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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