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Far-right vigilante boat C-Star just off Malta, claims to be heading to Cyprus

Defend Europe anti-humanitarian vigilante boat C-Star is sailing close to Malta, reportedly sailing back to Cyprus

Matthew Vella
17 August 2017, 12:04pm
The far-Right and anti-Muslim group is made up of young people from France, Germany, Italy and Austria
The far-Right and anti-Muslim group is made up of young people from France, Germany, Italy and Austria
The ship chartered by the far-right ‘Defend Europe’ to hinder migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean from carrying out their humanitarian missions, is sailing close to Malta as it charts a course to Kalecik, Cyprus.

The boat was denied entry to Catania as a wave of protest escalated against the group’s mission to prevent the rescue of asylum seekers and refugees at sea.

After leaving Cyprus on 1 August and being advised not to dock in Greece or Sicily for fear of protests, the C-Star briefly tracked the Aquarius, a search and rescue boat operated by the NGO SOS Mediterranée, off the coast of Libya at the weekend.

But on 7 August, Tunisian fishermen also prevented the 40m C-Star from entering the Zarzis harbour, forcing the vessel to head further along the north African country’s coast in search of supplies.

The C-Star is sailing close to Maltese waters
The C-Star is sailing close to Maltese waters
The vessel has so far not entered in Maltese waters, and has not made a request for entry into Malta. 

Earlier this week, three rescue missions led by Médècins Sans Frontieres, Save the Children, and Sea-Watch, had to dock their vessels on advice that they could be at the receiving end of violent retribution from the Libyan Navy, which is now intercepting departing boats of migrants and returning them to Libyan shores.

Maltese NGO Aditus launched an appeal on Facebook calling on the Maltese authorities not to allow the vessel to dock in Malta, and not to cooperate with “an organisation that has demonstrated itself to be racist, and with a mission that clearly aims to violate basic human rights.” 

‘Defend Europe’ was set up to collect funds in a bid to a campaign at sea to ward off rescue missions from bringing in asylum seekers and migrants fleeing African shores.

The far-Right and anti-Muslim group is made up of young people from France, Germany, Italy and Austria, inspired by the ‘Generation Identitaire’ movement – somewhat associated with the American alt-right movement.

The group claims the rescuing of refugees from the Mediterranean Sea, where more than 2,400 men, women and children have drowned so far this year, is part of an “invasion” endangering the continent.

It supporters chartered the C-Star to launch a vigilante-style mission and take on the dozen or so humanitarian organisations who pluck refugees and migrants from sinking boats and dinghies.

But after developing engine trouble at sea, the group was forced to issue a distress call. The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean’s Operation Sophia said the distress call was flagged to Sea Eye, a German volunteer rescue organisation whose vessel is currently nearest to C-Star.

“As our Sea Eye cutter is closest to the C-Star, we were commissioned by MRCC Rome (the sea tributary centre for the western Mediterranean) to help the ship,” Michael Buschheuer, chairman of Sea Eye, said: “To help in distressed persons is the duty of everyone who is at sea - indifferent to their origin, skin colour, religion or spirit.”

Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.