NATO takes call on aid for migrant crisis ‘seriously’
DHA photoNATO will take any request to help with the refugee crisis “very seriously,” chief Jens Stoltenberg said Feb. 9, as thousands continued to flock to the Syria-Turkey border fleeing assaults by Russian-backed Syrian government forces around the city of Aleppo.
“I think we will take very seriously the request from Turkey and other allies to look into what NATO can do to help them cope and deal with the crisis and all the challenges they face, not least in Turkey,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by AFP during a news conference.
Defense ministers from the 28-nation alliance will discuss the issue at a meeting in Brussels on Feb. 10 and 11 on the issue.
Former Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg said he had spoken with the Turkish and German defense ministers on Feb. 9 to discuss the issue, adding that the migration crisis was “of great concern for all of us.”
“I expect the ministers to discuss the request from Turkey and then agree on how we can follow up,” he said, stressing that nothing as yet had been decided.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on a visit to Ankara on Feb. 8 that Turkey and Germany would ask NATO to help police the Turkish coast to prevent smugglers from packing migrants into overloaded boats for the perilous crossing to Greece.
Turkey is the main gateway for migrants and refugees crossing into Europe, which received over a million people last year, more than half of them fleeing the war in Syria. Turkey currently hosts over 2.5 million refugees, with possibly more to come due to the thousands of Syrians fleeing from around Aleppo toward Turkey and flocking the border in Turkey’s south due to airstrikes carried out by Russia and ground forces assaults by Syrian regime forces and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The United Nations urged Turkey on Feb. 9 to open its borders to tens of thousands of Syrians who have overwhelmed nearby emergency camps after fleeing a major government offensive.
“We are asking Turkey to open its border to all civilians from Syria who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection,” said U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman William Spindler.
The United Nations says up to 31,000 people have fled Aleppo city and surrounding areas in recent days, as government forces backed by Russian warplanes press an offensive that could encircle the rebel-held part of the city.
On the same day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was admitting Syrian refugees in a “controlled manner” and had let in thousands fleeing Russian air strikes, warning the numbers of new migrants could reach a million if the attacks continue.
“Recently more than 50,000 people came to the border with Turkey due to Russia’s air attacks. We took in 10,000 of these migrants and we are building some camps on the other side of the border for some,” Çavuşoğlu said in Budapest during a joint press conference with his counterpart, Peter Szijjarto.