Anti-immigrant ship C-star enters Mediterranean waters after being stopped in Suez Canal

Defend Europe says it will be in Italian port of Catania in coming days where many NGO rescue boats are based

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Monday 24 July 2017 16:52 BST
Migrants rescued by Save the Children’s crew approach the ship Vos Hestia in the Mediterranean off Libya’s coast
Migrants rescued by Save the Children’s crew approach the ship Vos Hestia in the Mediterranean off Libya’s coast (Reuters)

A ship chartered by far-right activists to confront refugees and send them "back to Africa" has reportedly entered Mediterranean waters after being held up in the Suez Canal.

The ship, operated by Defend Europe, set sail from the east African nation of Djibouti where it was chartered earlier in the month in a bid to block search-and-rescue vessels operated by humanitarian organisations.

Defend Europe is linked to the European anti-Islam and anti-immigrant "identitarian" movement and the vessel, named C-Star, was predominantly funded with donations on a crowdfunding website.

However its mission did not go to plan after it was swiftly "arrested" in the Suez Canal when its captain failed to produce a satisfactory crew list last week.

But the crew has now resurfaced and said they still plan to be in Sicily in the coming days.

The group is aiming for the the Italian city of Catania where many rescue boats run by charities and non government organisations (NGOs) are based.

A lot of them then set sail from the city to rescue migrants who capsize in the Mediterranean.

"The #CStar will reach Catania in the next days after bunkering and refilling supplies! #DefendEurope," a tweet from the ship’s account read.

On Saturday the account posted an image of their coordinates off the coast of Cyprus.

An earlier tweet from the ship’s account read: "We just had a phone call with our guy on board the #cstar. Mood is good, waves not high and the travel goes on. #DefendEurope."

More than 85,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, have been pulled from the sea while trying to make the perilous crossing.

This year at least 2,000 have drowned, after paying smugglers and setting sail in rickety boats which are unsuited to the choppy waters of the Mediterranean.

The group has vowed to "assist" the Libyan coast guard in pushing back the refugee boats when they leave the country’s shores and say they want to "monitor" the actions of NGOs such as Save the Children who are operating in the region.

They claim these charities are facilitating "human trafficking" into Europe.

A statement on the group’s website reads: "We need to stop the disastrous work of the NGOs in front of the Libyan coast.

"By ferrying migrants to Europe, they costing us missions make the human traffickers a fortune.

"By luring Africans into the sea they are endangering lives and abusing international maritime law.

"This madness needs to stop. We need to stop the boats to save Europe."

Defend Europe denied they will block or hinder any rescuing activities.

The group told The Independent: "As we have stated clearly from the beginning we never planned to and never will hinder any actual rescuing activities.

"Our plan is to cooperate with the Libyan coastguard and support their efforts to control their waters, to overwatch and expose the NGOs, especially if they breach the new code of conduct by the Italian government."

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