The Royal Navy is to deploy a ship to the seas between Greece and Turkey to assist with the escalating migrant crisis.
The RFA Mounts Bay, a landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, will join a NATO maritime group which was recently deployed to the disaster-struck region.
The vessel will not be there to rescue migrants, however. It has been tasked to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the narrow straits between Turkey and the islands of Lesvos and Samos, where millions of migrants have crossed. She is currently alongside in Crete, waiting for diplomatic clearance to begin her mission.
The development comes on the same day Culture Secretary John Whittingdale warned the Government that migration from the EU has left the UK “creaking at the seams“.
According to Sky News, a Wildcat helicopter from 825 Naval Air Squadron has flown from Oman to link up with the Mounts Bay. A detachment of Royal Marines Commandos will also be aboard.
The vast majority of the 130,000 plus migrants who have reached Europe this year pass crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Authorities are struggling to control the exodus, and 30,000 are currently trapped at the Macedonian border, unable to proceed to northern Europe.
If the Mounts Bay does not receive diplomatic clearance within 10 days, she will sail into international waters and conduct airborne surveillance using the Wildcat.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship will come under the command of a German ship, the FGS Bonn. The rest of the flotilla is made up of Canadian, Greek and Turkish ships.
A few days ago it was reported that the Nato mission in the Aegean had to be put on hold after Turkey “denied entry” to the warships. However Turkish officials rubbished the report saying that it was “fabricated” and “provocative”.