Locals Face Off Against Extremist Anti-Refugee Ship in the Mediterranean

A group of pro-white, anti-Muslim and anti-globalist extremists chartered a ship to disrupt humanitarian vessels and confront refugees, but has encountered local resistance.

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Aug 16 2017, 3:29pm

Last month, after raising €75,000 ($88,000) through a crowdfunding campaign, Generation Identity self-styled "Defend Europe" mission deployed a vessel, the C-Star in Djibouti.

Manned by the extremist French-based Generation Identity Group, a bunch of young far-right activists, the C-Star is a boat on a mission to stop the boats rescuing migrants and refugees stranded at sea in the Mediterranean.

That's in theory anyway.

In practice, the mission has yielded very different results. From Tunisia to Egypt, Cyprus to Italy, locals, fishermen, activists, politicians and tourists, have come out with banners or in boats to support refugees and call against racism and hate, a blow to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration group's mission.

Since leaving Cyprus on August 1, it has been unable to dock in Greece or Sicily as protests against the group flooded ports across Mediterranean cities.Stuck at sea with nowhere to go, the C-Star's ultimate fail, however, came on August 11 when it had to be rescued from precisely who it came to attack.

The Sea Eye, a German NGO boat, which has saved the lives of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean, received a phone call early morning from Operation Sophia, the joint EU naval operation deterring migrant smugglers and human traffickers at sea, to say that the anti-refugee boat was itself getting some hands-on experience of just how perilous the Mediterranean can be, especially when you are turned away at its ports.

Since January 2017, more than 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers have, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) lost their lives at sea.

"Since our vessel the Sea Eye is closest to the C-Star, we were instructed by the maritime rescue coordination centre in Rome, the emergency service for the western Mediterranean, to go to its aid," the NGO said on its Facebook page, reiterating that their duty was to "help those in distress, irrespective their origin, colour, religion or beliefs."

Karma aside, the C-Star's trip in the Mediterranean comes at a time where fatalities are reaching unprecedented numbers. Since January 2017, more than 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers have, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) lost their lives at sea. The largest incident, which involved a dinghy carrying 133 people - all of which except 4 lost their lives - from Libya towards Italy, was only 2 months ago.

VICE Impact caught up with Oscar Soria, a senior campaigner at Avaaz, who has been mobilizing activists against C-Star, and making sure local politicians are both aware of their legal duties towards refugees and their rights to close its ports to extremists groups, like Generation Identity.

Photo via Avaaz.

VICE Impact: Avaaz helped organize one of the biggest protests against C-Star in Catania, Italy. How did you do it?

Oscar Soria: The boat was stuck in Cyprus but it'd been rumored that it would try to come to Catania. Locals did not want to receive racists and started organizing themselves. We were just one small part, really.

We wanted to make sure that their voices were heard and that the movement was organised, peaceful, meaningful and impactful.

So we helped organise a boat protest. We also sent letters to government officials. We wanted to make sure that they knew that, legally, they had the authority to close the port on the group.

Our lawyers, who had examined the legal position, wanted authorities to know that they not only had the power to close the port, but should do so in order to prevent the C-Star from frustrating efforts to rescue refugees at risk at sea.

Photo via Avaaz.

And you were successful, right? C-Star never arrived in Catania.

It didn't and partially because of the protest. But to be honest, it's pretty hard to understand these people, what they are doing. They change plans all the time. They are pretty erratic, they are seeking attention, and generally quite incompetent.

We are just treating this as a boat of lonely haters, no more.

Clearly.

But their incompetency is a double-edged sword. It is distracting the important humanitarian work that NGOs are doing there.

But really we shouldn't give them more importance than they deserve.

Photo via Avaaz.

You don't want to give them celebrity status?

We are doing our utmost not to give them celebrity status because that's what they want. To be honest, it's not hard because they really are just a boat of lonely haters.

They just don't represent a big movement. At all. Even, if we look at Europe, yes there is a renaissance of the right-wing but at the same time we are also seeing that the far-right has been rejected election after election.

C-Star has actually highlighted that people really do want to protect asylum-seekers and refugees?

Definitely, look at what happened! So many came out against hate. There were more people building bridges than there were people creating divides. A few days after our protest in Catania, Tunisian fishermen prevented the boat entry into the port of Zarzis.

Photo via Avaaz.

What now?

We are still monitoring the situation. We are looking at where they are going and organising people if it's needed but we're doing this on a very ad-hoc basis.

We are just treating this as a boat of lonely haters, no more.

If you haven't already you can sign Avaaz's 1.2 million-strong petition calling on the world's governments to deliver a humane refugee policy. If the C-Star comes to your holiday destination or hometown (at this point unlikely as the vessel is still stranded and refusing support), here is how you can block its path.