Defense Min. wants extension to NATO's asylum crisis response

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

Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis Plasschaert wants an extension for NATO's anti-human trafficking mission on the Aegean Sea. The mission is set to end over three months, "but leaving in July would be really premature", Hennis said to broadcaster NOS during a visit to the area.

NATO, with the help from the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and England, started patrolling the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey two months ago. Their goal is to keep an eye out for human traffickers or asylum seekers trying to make the dangerous crossing between Turkey and Europe. If they spot something, the call in either the Turkish or Greece coast guard to intervene.

According to Hennis, the mission is making a difference. "It slowly going in the right direction, but we are not there yet", she said to NOS. "It remains unbelievable everything that's happened and is still happening. So much suffering. It must stop." She thinks NATO, including the Netherlands' contribution to the mission, should keep patrolling for as long as is necessary.

Dick van der Neut, commander of participating Dutch frigate ZR. MS. Van Amstel, also sees a big difference in the current state of affairs, compared to when his ship joined the mission three weeks ago. "Is it because of the deal between Turkey and the EU, or because we are here now? Probably both, but the fact is that we are seeing fewer boats", he said to the broadcaster. "When we arrived here a month ago we saw them every day, now there are really a lot less."


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