NATO warships in Aegean Sea target refugees, not smugglers

Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, 2013.Feb. 14 — In 2015, over 1 million refugees entered Europe, the greatest human flow of desperate people since World War II. So far in the first six weeks of 2016, 80,000 people fleeing their homelands have entered Europe, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

At an emergency meeting on Feb. 9, the European Union authorized sending a flotilla the next day to the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey. The NATO flotilla is under German command, with a Turkish ship operating in Turkish waters and a Canadian ship, as well as assorted planes. While the pretext is to stop “human trafficking” and “terrorists,” the effect is to stop refugees from entering Europe.

In the beginning of 2015, most of the refugees were single men. As the year progressed, many more women and children started taking part. Of those who entered Europe so far this year, 19,781 were minors.

What makes them so desperate to risk a winter crossing, instead of waiting for warmer weather, is that the political climate indicates relatively prosperous countries like Germany and Sweden may soon close their doors. Only 190 refugees of the more than 1 million who entered Europe in 2015 have been formally resettled, according to the Feb. 3 New York Times. The vast majority of the flow has been from Turkey to close-by Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

Right-wing and fascist political groups use the presence of refugees, especially those from Muslim areas, to incite anti-foreign sentiment and demand EU countries close their internal borders. This has pressured the EU government to use NATO warships to stop the flow at EU’s external borders.

Real cause of refugee crisis

The European and U.S. media admit that fighting and turmoil in Syria have compelled many people to leave for Europe, and they describe the desperation and dangers the refugees face. Some 3,692 refugees died in 2015 trying to reach Europe.

These same media avoid explaining what is behind the fighting in Syria and the turmoil in the region: First, U.S.-NATO aggression against Libya destabilized all of North Africa and then U.S.-NATO intervention in Syria displaced millions of Syrians. Instead, the media hide the responsibility of the imperialist states and treat the refugees as if they are a natural disaster, flowing toward Europe like a glacier flows to the sea.  

There is documentation of the substantial aid that the United States and its major allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have given to a shifting constellation of forces trying to overthrow the Syrian government. But this is reported separately from the refugees, as if there were no connection between the two phenomena.

It’s as if the U.S. and its allies threw gasoline on the fires burning in Syria but denied responsibility for the resulting conflagration. They keep on lying about who started the fires, at the same time avoiding responsibility for what they’ve done.

Now major European imperialists like Great Britain and France are trying to use the threat of more terrorist attacks to justify new military intervention in both Libya in North Africa and in the region centered in Syria.

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