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Refugees: NATO's operations in Aegean Sea must focus on rescue

There have been numerous deaths of refugees/migrants in the Aegean Sea this winter © AFP/Getty Images
‘Any NATO ships that witness a boat in distress must provide immediate life-saving assistance’ - Iverna McGowan
NATO forces about to begin working in the Aegean Sea must operate in line with international law by carrying out search-and-rescue operations for people in distress and not illegally return refugees back to Turkey, said Amnesty International. 
NATO today announced that it was sending three naval ships to the Aegean to help “stem the flow” of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, and will carry out surveillance of human traffickers, criminal networks and irregular crossings to Greece.
Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said:
“Any NATO ships that witness a boat in distress must provide immediate life-saving assistance.
“Hundreds of refugees, including many children, have already died this year attempting the treacherous journey across the Aegean.
“In no way must NATO forces become yet one more barrier between refugees and the international protection they are legally entitled to. 
“Intercepting refugees attempting to reach Europe and pushing them back to Turkey - where 2.5 million are already hosted - would be a serious violation of their right to claim asylum, and would fly in the face of international law.” 
Amnesty is also insisting that European countries immediately implement and scale up plans to resettle refugees from Turkey. Offering legal and safe alternatives would be the only measure likely to deter people from dangerous and irregular sea crossings, said the organisation.

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