A vessel run by an NGO that works to rescue refugees offered to help an anti-refugee protest boat in the Mediterranean Sea before it was rebuffed on Friday, according to The Independent.
German NGO Sea-Eye offered its help to the C-Star, a ship operated by the Defend Europe organization, after it received word from Italy’s Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) that it was in distress.
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Defend Europe’s stated aim is to stop “illegal immigrants” from “flooding into European waters.”
It is operating the C-Star in the Mediterranean as part of a plan to “step in where our politicians are failing and to do what is necessary to stop the deadly illegal migration into Europe.”
At one time, its crew included Lauren Southern, a controversial online personality who has been identified as a member of the alt-right, and who formerly contributed to Canadian right-wing site The Rebel.
The C-Star initially had a mission to block boats carrying migrants, but later said it was only supervising rescues, The Guardian reported.
The group took command of the boat after a fundraising campaign brought in £67,000, or just over C$110,000.
Sea-Eye chairman Michael Buschheuer said on Facebook that “to help in distress is the duty of anyone who is at sea, without distinction to their origin, colour, religion or beliefs.”
As such, a ship operated by Sea-Eye approached the C-Star in the Mediterranean on Friday and offered to help, but Defend Europe refused them.
The group downplayed the incident on Twitter, saying there was “no distress.”
The C-Star has run into trouble more than once on its travels.
The boat was halted in Egypt and Cyprus after crew members were linked to allegations of human smuggling, but they were later released, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, Tunisia refused to allow the ship to dock at its ports, as officials and fishermen called its operators “racists,” according to The Maritime Executive.
The mayor of Catania, Italy, has likewise tried to stop the C-Star from docking in the city, The Independent reported.
Enzo Bianco said its crew were “like vigilantes, people who take the law into their own hands without having any authority.”
Since 2014, approximately 600,000 migrants have been saved from boats operated by traffickers; over 10,000 people have died trying to journey across the Mediterranean in the same time frame, BBC News reported.