Far-right ship stopping refugees ends its mission after multiple setbacks
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday August 22 2017
The Independent reports that a boat chartered by far-right activists who sought to hamper the rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean has ended its mission after enduring many embarrassing setbacks.
Defend Europe, which consists of a network of young anti-immigrant and anti-Islam activists, hailed their trip as a success despite the vessel spending under a week monitoring the sea by Libya where hundreds of thousands of migrants have been rescued in recent years.
The crew who chartered a 422-tonne vessel called the C Star aimed to send refugees “back to Africa” by harassing and blocking search and rescue vessels run by NGOs, but were unsuccessful in achieving their goal.
“Yes, Defend Europe has been a political success. Only two months ago, many NGOs sailed in front of the Libyan coasts, like cabs waiting for customers,” the group reported in a statement. “Today, there is only one.”
NGO vessels working off Libya have reduced activities in the wake of the Libyan and Italian authorities’ decision to curb their activities and in direct response to a decrease in the number of migrant boats departing Libya.
The boat’s voyage has been exposed to a long string of humiliating hitches that caused it to be delayed by several weeks. The launch was switched to Cyprus from Sicily where anti-racist campaigners and journalists had gathered last month.
The vessel, hired by the movement after it raised more than €75,000 (£67,000) through crowdfunding, set sail from Dijbouti in early July and was expected to dock in Catania, Sicily. However it was stopped from doing so after the mayor of Catania, Enzo Bianco, encouraged the city’s port authorities to deny the ship docking rights. Plans to refuel in Greece and Tunisia were also destroyed by local opposition.
Additionally, the boat was stopped in the Suez Canal after the Captain failed to produce a satisfactory crew list, before travelling to northern Cyprus, where crew members were arrested over people smuggling allegations. They were later released after declaring Sri Lankan crew members on board were “apprentice sailors” who were supposed to disembark in Egypt. Ironically this increased the amount of asylum-seekers the mission was supposed to reduce.
Prior to this, volunteers on a German refugee rescue ship were deployed to aid them after they were apparently informed Defend Europe’s ship had undergone a mechanical failure.
The originally stated goal of the Defend Europe vigilante-style “mission”, which is supported by former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke, was to actively block search and rescue (SAR) NGO ships who rescue refugees and migrants from sinking boats and dinghies. However they later reported they were changing approach, claiming they would “monitor” the situation and intercept should they see wrongdoing by the NGOs.
Crew members have been yelling at humanitarian ships via megaphones and “trolling” other crews like the Spanish Charity Provactiva Open Arms over radio by insisting they exit the search and rescue zone.
Defend Europe, whose members were photographed alongside Katy Hopkins, accuses NGOs which have saved thousands of lives in the Mediterranean of working in conjunction with people smugglers to transport migrants to Europe.
The group consists of “identitarians”- a network of people in their 20s and 30s who claim to preserve Europe’s identity and prevent “Islamification” of the continent. Members of the far-right, anti-Muslim movement which has been described as Europe’s equivalent of the American “alt-right”, have used questionable tactics to further their causes.
This involves blockading roads around Calais, occupying mosques, disagreeing with leftists and trying to block an NGO ship in Sicily. The movement can be traced back to France in 2002 when the far-right Bloc Identitaire party set up a youth wing.
More than 90,000 refugees and migrants, the majority of them sub-Saharan Africans, have been rescued and brought to Italy so far. More than 2,400 have died attempting the lethal Mediterranean crossing.