It has been announced that a NATO naval force under German command will head to the Aegean to tackle refugee traffickers. This action plan was drawn up at the request of Greece, Germany and Turkey within the framework of action by NATO.

In practice, NATO ships will play an ancillary role: upon detecting boats with refugees/immigrants, they will relay the information to the Port Authorities and Frontex, whereupon the latter will intervene. NATO forces will intervene only in cases of search and rescue operations. The surviving refugees will be returned to Turkey.

Given that the aforementioned action plan concerns refugees after their departure from Turkey and aims to return them to the Turkish coast and following the disbursement of the financial assistance to Turkey, will the Commission say:
1. What is the exact plan for addressing and managing the refugee/migration flows and returning those concerned to Turkish territory, including rescued refugees?
2. What are the exact timetable and the operational and legal details of the next actions and what objectives has the Commission set for Turkey to ease the flow of refugees to the EU?
3. What penalties have been provided for Turkey should it fail to implement what it has signed up to and as regards the continuing sea and air violations of Greek sovereignty in the Aegean?

Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission

At the Summit of 29 November 2015 the EU and Turkey have decided to enhance their cooperation in preventing irregular departures of migrants from Turkey towards Greece and to share the burden of hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey.

On 25 February 2016, at the request of Greece, Turkey and Germany, the North-Atlantic Council has agreed to allow the Standing Maritime Group 2 of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to operate in the Aegean waters with the purpose to support the effort of Greece and Turkey to combat against migrant smuggling.

With the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016, in order to break the business model of the smugglers and to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk, the EU and Turkey decided to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and agreed on additional action points.

The Commission regularly monitors the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and has issued on 15 June 2016 its Second Report on the progress made(1).

As this report shows, the EU-Turkey Statement is delivering results in spite of many challenges but the state of play remains fragile. In particular, the numbers of migrants leaving Turkey for the Greek islands continues to decrease. In the month before the implementation of the Statement, around 1,740 migrants were crossing the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands every day. By contrast, since 1 May 2016 the average daily number of arrivals is down to 47.

The Commission will continue monitoring the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement. The next report will be published in September 2016.

(1) COM(2016) 349 final.