Enlarge / The Generation Identity crowdfunded ship C-Star broke down off Libya's coast this morning.
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Share this storyA right-wing "European identity" group called Generation Identity crowdfunded enough to hire a ship in order to intercept refugees from North Africa trying to reach Europe. But as the effort cast off in July, Patreon cancelled an account being used to fund the efforts. And today, the group's ship lost propulsion off the coast of Libya. The ship that arrived to provide assistance was one operated by Sea-Eye, a non-governmental organization coincidentally working to rescue refugees in distress on the Mediterranean.
The C-Star is a 42-year old research and survey ship operated by Marine Global Services Ltd. and registered in the land-locked nation of Mongolia. The vessel was hired in July by the anti-refugee organization using funds from a Patreon campaign called "Defend Europe" that started in May. Through sites such Patreon and WeSearchr, the group collected funds for its "rescue mission":
It’s a mission to save Europe, stop illegal immigration and save lives on the sea. We want to expose doings of the NGOs, disrupt the human traffickers and support the Libyan Coastguard with informations [sic]. To do that we need your help to get our ship in the Mediterranean Sea.The group promoted their cause and fundraising campaign with the assistance of Canadian right-wing YouTube personality Lauren Southern. Southern had accompanied Generation Identity on a prior mission at-seas, when the group used a small boat to intercept a rescue ship operated by Doctors Without Borders and the French refugee rescue charity SOS Mediterranee (Generation Identity fired flares at it). Southern said that the group's goal was to get more boats and to use nets and other tools to foul the propellers of "migrant boats."
That attention helped the group raise over $100,000 by July. The group's WeSearchr page has now reached $213,000 in donations from over 2,800 contributors. But getting it to the Mediterranean (and getting Generation Identity members aboard) turned out to be a bit more difficult than anticipated. The ship, previously known as the Suunta, was held up by authorities at the Suez Canal when it was en route from Djibouti. The ship did not having proper documentation for crew, according to a report from the activist group Hope Not Hate. Then on July 20, the Patreon accounts of Southern and Austrian "identitarian" Martin Sellner, were closed. Those accounts were being used to fund the ship's operations.
In a message to Southern, Patreon executives said:
It appears that you are currently raising funds in order to take part in activities that are likely to cause loss of life. We have therefore decided to remove your page from Patreon, and paid out your final balance of $95.00 to you.(Southern disputes this characterization. While she has openly promoted the Generation Identity campaign, in a new video she claims that her Patreon was funding her work as a "YouTube journalist," not the Generation Identity ship.)
After the cancellations, the C-Star next had trouble getting to Italy to pick up the Generation Identity members, who were waiting for the ship in Catania, Italy. Facing protests and unwanted attention from local officials, the "identitarians" flew to Crete in late July to meet the ship, where the ship's crew again ran into trouble with authorities over documentation for Sri Lankan crew members. The ship's captain and owner were placed under arrest by Turkish authorities there.
But on July 31, the ship finally got underway despite all its setbacks. After refueling in Tunisia, the C-Star headed to a position off the coast of Libya—where the ship broke down and set adrift.
In a post to Facebook this morning, a Sea-Eye representative wrote:
A spokesman for [European Naval Forces Mediterranean] Operation Sophia informed the chairman of Sea-Eye on Friday morning the chairman of Sea-Eye Michael Busch Heuer on Friday morning that the Nazi ship was disabled [due to mechanical failure] and needed help. Since Our Cutter Sea-eye is closest to the c-Star, we have been instructed by the [Maritime Rescue Coordination Center Rome], the emergency service for the Western Mediterranean to get the ship to help. The Sea-eye is currently with the c-Star. Michael Busch Heuer [said] " To help in distress is the duty of anyone who is at sea, without distinction to their origin, color, religion or beliefs."Generation Identity acknowledged the problems in a post to Twitter but said that the ship was not in distress:
According to data from Marine Traffic, as of noon Eastern Time today (1600 UTC), the C-Star was underway again and limping north at a speed of 3 knots.���� The #CStar is having technical difficulty. We're resolving it. No distress. #DefendEurope pic.twitter.com/4qksU8fN1N— Defend Europe (@DefendEuropeID) August 11, 2017