NATO will send rescued refugees back to Turkey

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-Secretary general says people coming from Turkey to Greece will be returned if saved by NATO ships

BRUSSELS – Refugees rescued from the Aegean Sea by NATO will be returned to Turkey, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

The NATO naval mission dispatched to the Aegean two weeks ago is not tasked with intercepting refugee boats but will act to save any that appear to be in trouble.

“In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

NATO vessels are operating alongside EU border agency Frontex in the area, which is the main route for refugees seeking to enter the EU, to monitor people smuggling and assist the Turkish and Greek coast guards.

“NATO’s task is not to turn back the boats,” Stoltenberg said. “We will provide critical information to enable the Greek and Turkish coastguards, as well as Frontex, to do their job even more effectively.”

More than 400 people have died attempting to cross to Greece from Turkey so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, while more than 102,000 have succeeded.

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