Concerned Europeans from the Identitarian Movement have chartered a ship and is heading for the Mediterranean to stem the flow of migrants heading for the EU.
Pan-European members of the concerned group Defend Europe, announced this week that they had chartered a vessel as part of the project. Defend Europe crowd-funded more than $100,000 in just a month to fund their search and rescue mission.
The group raised the money despite financial institutions shutting down many methods of donation. They had to rely on Bitcoins and wire transfers.
A pro-migrant activist group called Hope not Hate said the vessel from Defend Europe has departed from a Djibouti port and will reach Sicily by July 18.
“This confrontational and dangerous project is organised by far-right activists with a long track record of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant activism and while organized by Europeans it is being supported, funded and promoted by the extreme far-right around the world,” the group wrote.
“The danger is that, if left unchallenged, Defend Europe could prove to be a major propaganda coup for the far-right Identitarian movement, which will use this mission to fundraise further and expand.”
The mission by Defend Europe however is motivated by an abundance of evidence that NGO rescue missions in the Mediterranean are aiding smugglers who load migrants onto unseaworthy ships in the knowledge they would be rescued and taken to Italy.
Italian authorities have argued that this extra safety net motivates more migrants to take the risk of getting into vessels that could never make the voyage without the aid of NGOs. It has since threatened to close its ports to such ships.
With the Greek lambda as its logo – a reference to the Spartan shields used against the Persian Empire – the Identitarian movement says it is concerned about “the Islamic invasion of Europe”.
Lorenzo Fiato, the leader of the Italian branch of Generation Identity spearheaded the anti-immigration initiative. The group told German media that they would also employ armed security to ward off any retribution from human traffickers.
The 40-meter vessel will to intercept human trafficking boats and return them to the Libyan coast guard, before NGO groups can reach them and transport them to Italy. According to the UNHCR, these private rescue NGOs are now picking up 41 percent of the people rescued.
“Our goal is to step in where our politicians are failing and to do what is necessary to stop the deadly illegal migration into Europe,” the group announced on their successful crowd-funding page.
“We will offer the Libyan Coastguard our support as [a] recon ship … We will save anyone we can if we get an SOS signal, but we will make sure that they will be brought back to Africa.”
The group had vowed to force NGO ships to change course in an effort to sap the financial and organisational resources of charities transporting migrants to the EU, they said on their website earlier.
Human traffickers hope that Libyan authorities would soon sabotage the group’s project and refuse them entry in their territorial waters, suggesting that some Libyans are also involved in the smuggling. In May, Defend Europe unsuccessfully tried to stop a Medecins sans Frontieres vessel from leaving port on a rescue mission.
Elizabeth Collett of the Migration Policy Institute told Deutsche Welle that the NGOs were responsible for the dire situation: “It’s an extremely complex moral quandary that NGOs find themselves in, and I think it’s very easy to oversimplify the situation. On the one hand this is a humanitarian action: If we don’t pick these people up they will die. They are in boats that cannot go a certain distance beyond a few miles from the Libyan coast. However, they are using those boats because of the presence of the NGOs. But having created that situation, NGOs can’t just pull out.”
According to the International Organization for Migration, the average death rate for people crossing the Mediterranean on unseaworthy vessels is one in 39. More than 1 200 migrants are known to have died attempting the journey so far this year alone.
In June, the number of migrants arriving in Italy through the Central Med route rose by 8 percent from May to 24 800, Frontex reported.