The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has authorised the deployment of HMS Mersey to the Aegean in support of NATO activity to counter migration.
This is a significant extension of the UK contribution reflecting our continuing commitment to tackle illegal people trafficking and migration in the Aegean Sea. The announcement comes as the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirms the international effort is working with numbers crossing being reduced by around 90% - from several thousand per day to tens.
HMS Mersey, an Offshore Patrol Vessel, will provide the taskforce with enhanced ability to work closer to the shore line and greater agility – the specific capabilities the operation’s commander has asked for.
NATO ships are working closely with Greek and Turkish coastguards, alerting them to sightings of migrant vessels crossing the Aegean and enabling them to turn them back or prevent them attempting the dangerous crossing in the first place. Our RFA ships deployed so far have proved highly effective at facilitating the coastguard in their important work.
HMS Mersey will deploy to the Aegean from the Caribbean where she has been on counter narcotic operations. In April she played a key role alongside the Canadian Navy and US coastguard in a £12 million drugs bust where 304kg of drugs were seized.