In a bizarre development, a coalition of European right-wing extremists have chartered a boat and set sail for the Mediterranean. They will rescue sea-borne migrants but instead of bringing them to the Italian coast, they will take the migrants back to the Libyan coast where they set forth. Their chief aim is to stem the flow of refugees to Europe.
An anti-immigration group, with members from France, Italy and Germany, have hired a vessel to patrol the Mediterranean Sea to stop migrant boats from reaching European shores. The group, known as the Identitarian Movement, managed to raise tens of thousands of euros to rent the 40-meter ship despite protest by opposing activists.
The vessel is currently on its way from Djibouti and will pick up activists in Catania, Sicily, this week to patrol international waters off the coast of Libya. The anti-immigrant group, which calls itself “Generation Identity”, has raised over 90,000 euros in a crowdfunding campaign for its “Defend Europe” mission.
Opponents had raised concern and the PayPal account used for the campaign had been closed down in response. However, the group was able to continue its activities by means of a bitcoin-payment method.
According to organizer Clement Galant, the aim of Defend Europe is to “”to expose the true face of so-called humanitarian organizations, their collaboration with smuggling mafias, and the deadly consequences of their actions at sea.”
Far-right movement in Europe
Over 103,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year and over 2,300 people have died or are missing according to UNHCR figures. In addition to Coast Guard, marine and cargo vessels, non-governmental organizations operate rescue ships on the Mediterranean Sea. Despite their humanitarian mission, they have come under fire by far-right groups as well as Italian prosecutors who claim their presence acts as a pull factor for migration.
Return to Libya
On its crowdfunding page, organizers write its vigilante scheme is an “identitarian search and rescue mission on the Libyan coast”. They will watch over the NGO boats “and inform the Libyan Coast Guard about their doings”, Galant explains in a video. They will also “intervene when they [the NGOs] are doing something illegal”, he continues. In case of receiving an SOS signal by migrants in distress, the group would “make sure that they will be brought back to the Libyan coast.”
The Defend Europe mission was launched in May after members of the Generation Identity movement had obstructed the NGO ship “Aquarius” operated by SOS Mediterranee from entering the port of Catania.
It is still unclear whether Libyan authorities will work with the group or allow them to enter the country’s territorial waters.
Generation Identity is a pan-European movement opposing migration and Islam with factions in Italy, Germany, France, and Austria.
Kwame Appaiah with InfoMigrants