Malta 'denies' Defend Europe anti-migrant boat

Aid groups applaud Maltese government, saying snub sends 'a clear message against the politics of hate and extremism'.

    Malta has said a vessel carrying anti-migrant and anti-refugee activists was "not welcome", allegedly denying the boat from docking on its shore.

    Far-right members of the Defend Europe group, who were aboard the C-Star vessel, said they were denied port access and a request for water to be sent out to the vessel, according to a statement on the group's Facebook page. 

    A government spokesman said the boat had not asked to dock in Malta, but indicated that such a request would have been rejected. 

    "They wanted to purchase services from here. There was never any kind of emergency," the spokesman told AFP news agency. 

    INTERACTIVE: The ongoing human tragedy in the Mediterranean

    The spokesman also said that the boat "was not welcome in Malta" and that the island-state disagrees "with all that [the boat] stands for". 

    "Europe and Malta stand for solidarity and respect for human dignity," he told DPA news agency. 

    'Clear message against hate'

    The snub was welcomed by local NGOs, who said in a joint statement that it sent a "clear message against the politics of hate and extremism". 

    The C-Star received similar cold-shoulder treatment from ports in Greece, Italy and Tunisia during its short-lived mission, which it ended on Thursday evening.

    In the group's statement on Saturday, it accused Malta's government of "supporting human trafficking and obeying international migration supporters", adding that it was a "historic disgrace". 

    It launched a petition to call on Maltese government to allow the C-Star vessel to dock. 

    While the group said their month-long mission was successful, its crew was never able to act on its threats to take any distressed migrant and refugee boats it came across back to Libya - a move humanitarian organisations had warned would be in breach of international law. 

    READ MORE: UN urges Europe to help Italy with refugee 'tragedy' 

    The C-Star crew comprised 25 members of the Identitarian Movement, a pan-European conglomerate of activists who rally against Muslims and refugees

    The movement can be traced back to France in 2002 when the far-right Bloc Identitaire party established a youth wing.

    Defend Europe said it had received more than $115,000 donations for its work. 

    More than 118,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain by boat via the Mediterranean Sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

    More than 2,400 people have died at sea in 2017, the IOM also said. 

    Last week, a German aid group said it was suspending its refugee rescue operations in the Mediterranean over security concerns after Libya barred foreign vessels from a stretch of water off its coast. 

    Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF) also said it was halting the use of its largest boat in the area because of an "increasingly hostile environment for life-saving rescue operations". 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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