Fishermen prevent anti-migrant boat from docking in Tunisian port

Tunisian fishermen have stopped an anti-migrant boat from docking, claiming the activists are 'racists' and endangering migrants’ lives

Fishermen gather, threatening to block off refuelling station for C-Star boat
Fishermen gather, threatening to block off refuelling station for C-Star boat

Tunisian fishermen have stopped a boat chartered by far-right anti-immigration activists from docking, forcing the vessel to head further along the north African country’s coast in search of reportedly much-needed supplies, as the fishermen claimed the activists are “racists” and endangering migrants’ lives.

Flying a Mongolian flag and manned by members of the extremist French-based Generation Identity group, the C-Star was turned away from Zarzis harbour on Sunday night and is thought likely to try to dock at Sfax or Gabès on Monday.

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.

Generation Identity’s self-styled “Defend Europe” mission chartered the C-Star in Djibouti last month after raising €75,000 through crowdfunding. After originally promising to actively “defend Europe” from migrants and block their boats, it now says it is “monitoring” rescues in the Mediterranean. Generation Identity has documented its operation on social media, posting videos with interviews of the young, male crew members from Germany, France and Italy and other EU countries.

The group, which oppose Islam and immigration, accuses NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean of illegally working with people smugglers to bring migrants to Europe.

But the 40-metre vessel faced determined resistance from Tunisian fishermen as it approached port. “If they come here, we’ll block the refuelling channel,” Chamseddine Bourassine, a local fishermen’s leader, told Agence France-Presse.

“It is the least we can do given what is happening out in the Mediterranean. Muslims and Africans are dying.”

A port official who wished to remain anonymous said: “Us let in racists here? Never.”

The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, a local NGO, said it would oppose any attempt by the C-Star to dock and take on fresh supplies of fuel, food and water in a Tunisian port. It called on the government “not to cooperate with its racist and dangerous crew”. 

Human right groups say any attempts to block migrant boats from docking in European ports or forcing them to turn back to Libya - as C-Star is attempting - could be illegal under international law, as well as potentially cause people to die at sea.

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