FGS Bonn, the German flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2), is the first NATO ship to enter the area of activity for a first patrol around the Greek island of Lesbos in response to the continuing refugee crisis and associated illegal human trafficking in the region, according to a NATO MARCOM news release. NATO has expanded SNMG2’s area of activity, in close coordination with Turkey and Greece, into the territorial waters of the two nations. NATO has also expanded its cooperation with the EU’s border agency Frontex.
“We are able to support the local authorities with our sensors, amplifying their capabilities. It is absolutely necessary to provide critical information to them, including the Turkish and Greek Coast Guards and the European Border Agency, Frontex to help them deal with the illegal human trafficking networks,” said SNMG2 Commander Rear Adm. Jörg Klein.
SNMG2 has also been growing, with Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay joining the group March 6, according to another MARCOM release. RFA Mounts Bay is a 580-foot long landing ship dock, able to operate a range of helicopters, boats, and landing craft, and with space and facilities for a large number of personnel.
Mounts Bay joins Bonn, the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton, the Hellenic frigate HS Salamis, and the Turkish frigate TCG Barbaros, and the unit may undergo further expansion. SNMG2 is tasked with reconnaissance, monitoring, and surveillance of the area, working with Turkish and Greek authorities and the European Union’s border agency FRONTEX to assist in international efforts to counter human trafficking and criminal networks in the region.
“This first patrol has shown that we as a well-trained NATO force are able to start with our task in this area. All the units as well as my multinational staff are well prepared to contribute to the objectives of this mission, which is to help counter the lines of illegal human trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean Sea,” said Klein.