When An Anti-Refugee Ship Needed Rescue, A Refugee Vessel Came To Its Aid

"To help those who are in distress is the duty of everyone who is at sea — no matter their origins, skin color, religion or views."

A ship carrying members of an alt-right group known as Generation Identity was reportedly "in distress" off international waters near Libya around 3:00 a.m. ET on August 11 and had to be helped by a boat whose purpose is to rescue refugees. 

According to Buzzfeed News, the C-Star — a large vessel bought by Generation Identity in order to prevent refugees coming into Europe across the Mediterranean Sea — was unable to move after an engine breakdown.

A German-language Facebook status shared by Sea-Eye, a refugee rescue group based off the Libyan coast, stated they had been contacted by the EU Naval Force's (EU NAVFOR) Operation Sophia and asked to help because they were closest vessel to the C-Star. However, the post adds the people on board, described as far-right YouTubers and "right-wing extremists," according to the Sea-Eye's post "refused any help."


Sea-Eye Chairman Michael Buschheuer told Buzzfeed, "To help those who are in distress is the duty of everyone who is at sea — no matter their origins, skin color, religion or views."

Not surprisingly, the C-Star crew is telling a very different version of events. In a series of identical tweets sent out in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German, those on board maintain the C-Star never needed assistance.

"The #CStar is having technical difficulty. We're resolving it. No distress," the status read. Included along with that tweet was a more detailed explanation of what occurred, which you can read below:

Per the Defend Europe website, the controversial group is on "a mission to save Europe, to stop illegal immigration, and end the dying on the sea," so they purchased the C-Star after a massive crowdfunding campaign last month. They believe NGOs in the Mediterranean (like Sea-Eye) are not actually rescuing refugees but are instead involved in an illegal human trafficking operation, so their intent is to interrupt as much NGO activity as possible.

Robert Timm, a German member of the group, told The Independent the C-Star would "not interfere" with humanitarian operations but their actions seem to tell a different story. As Buzzfeed points out, members were detained by Italian police in May after Periscoping themselves firing flares at refugee rescue vessels in the Mediterranean.

"If we are called, we will help," Timm added. "But we would make sure that they [the migrants] don't get to Europe." Instead, Timm said the plan is to take refugees to the port of Tunis in North Africa, though there doesn't seem to be any formal arrangement with the Tunisian government.

According to The U.N. Refugee Agency, deaths of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean hit an all-time high in 2016, with 3,740 lives lost by the end of October.  The death toll rose above 5,000 just before Christmas, when two boats capsized off the coast of Italy. 

Even with NGOs like Sea-Eye, the crisis was clearly intensifying.

However, the Italian government has since invested in Libya in an effort to stop refugees from making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, and the number of migrants coming to Italy has dropped, as has the death toll.

"When we said we had to relaunch the Libyan coastguard, it seemed like a daydream. Last weekend they saved 1,180 migrants while the whole international apparatus only saved 130," Interior Minister Marco Minniti told Politico earlier this month. "In the past four years that had never occurred."


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