TCG Barbaros joins NATO Aegean patrol mission
Uğur Ergan – ANKARAThe Turkish TCG Barbaros frigate was appointed to take part in the NATO mission on the Aegean Sea aimed at slowing irregular migration and combatting human smuggling.
TCG Barbaros, which is a member of the Turkish Navy fleet, will operate under the NATO mission, which will be led by Germany.
The Turkish vessel, which is 118-meters-long, run by a colonel and 200 personnel, will operate inside Turkish territorial waters. Only in cases of emergency and when the leading German frigate makes such a demand will the TCG Barbaros operate outside of Turkish territorial waters.
Apart from the sea mission, the Turkish vessel will also conduct surveillance on Turkish coasts to spot migrants getting ready to make the perilous journey to the Greek islands.
The NATO mission to slow migrant influx to the European Union via the Aegean Sea and monitor smugglers was first announced by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Feb. 8 in Ankara. In the following days, the plan was accepted by the NATO foreign ministers.
Under the plan, NATO forces are conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance to provide information to Greece, Turkey and the EU’s border agency Frontex so that they - not the alliance - can deal with the traffickers.
More than one million migrants have flocked to the EU in 2015 alone and this figure has exceeded 135,000 people in the first two months of 2016, while more than 400 people have died making the perilous journey.
Two Turkish majors will also take part in the German frigate that will lead the mission.
Turkish diplomatic sources have denied that there were demands that the number of illegal crossings be reduced to 1,000 per day. Instead, sources said, a meeting between Turkey and the EU was held last week in Brussels on an ambassadorial level where there was no mention of such numbers.