Defense Min. backs NATO in Turkey to aid asylum crisis

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Photo: Commons). (Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Photo: Commons))

Update, 3:00 p.m., 10 February 2016: This article was updated with comments from the NATO Secretary General, and a correction to clearly state that a NATO deployment is being discussed, but no decision has been made.

Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert supports Germany and Turkey's plan to use NATO against human traffickers in the Aegan Sea near Greece and Turkey. According to her, the asylum crisis is too large to worry about taboos on possible solutions. "That means we have to look at all options. Even if it is maritime deployment within NATO context", she said in parliament, according to broadcaster NOS.

A proposed NATO deployment could involve surveillance at sea, better control of the asylum seekers flow and dismantling criminal networks behind human trafficking, the minister said. The details of the plan have not yet been announced. The NATO countries Defense Ministers will discuss it in Brussels on Thursday. U.S. President Barack Obama is said to be open to working with NATO allies to find a solution to the crisis, according to Reuters.

“We will discuss that during our meeting today and tomorrow. It is too early to conclude because I think it is important that we have this discussion among Defense ministers," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stotenburg said on Wednesday morning. "We all understand the concern and we all see the human tragedy and all the challenges which are connected to the migrant and the refugee crisis, which we have seen for many years in the Middle East but which has now become a great challenge for Europe."

He went on to say that any requests from Allies wanting help from NATO to manage the migrant crisis will be diligently reviewed and discussed.

Hennis hopes that a NATO deployment will happen as close to the Turkish coast as possible. "But that is a wish, we have to see if it is possible", she said to the broadcaster.