Maltese Government Denies ‘Defend Europe’ Boat From Entering Its Shores

A C-star vessel operated by far-right activists, under the name of Defend Europe, was denied port access by the Maltese government. Defend Europe is an organization comprised of members of the Identitarian Movement, a Europe-wide association of activists who stand for the preservation of national identity and strongly oppose refugees from seeking asylum in Europe. The anti- immigration group’s mission is to restrict humanitarian and aid groups from carrying out their work in the Mediterranean by blocking rescue boats from reaching distressed migrant ships. The Maltese government’s refusal to accommodate Defend Europe sends a clear message against the politics of hate and extremism.

In a series of tweets published on August 19th, ‘Defend Europe’ criticized the lack of cooperation it received, arguing that “the Maltese Government are betraying their national history by supporting human trafficking.” Defend Europe’s extreme anti-immigration ideology was further bolstered on its social media pages as they vowed to continue fighting the “Islamization of the [W]est,” which the organization claims NGOs involved with the rescue of refugees help to facilitate. Meanwhile, in an attempt to garner support from the public, Defend Europe has launched a petition on social media against the Maltese government’s decision to refuse entry on its shores. Defend Europe remains optimistic that it will receive backing from other European nations, saying that it intends to move on to other ports “in France or Croatia.”

With that said, the danger of Defend Europe’s hate fueled political messages must not be underestimated. The European government are vigilant on the ships activities and describe the C-star as “a ship of hate.” A government spokesperson told the AFP news agency that “Europe and Malta stand for solidarity and respect for human dignity.” This makes clear the lack of governmental support Defend Europe will receive for its missions. As well, a number of NGO’s including Jesuit Refugee Service Malta were quick to commend the Maltese government’s handling of the situation on their Facebook pages, thus raising further awareness within the European public of the necessity to mobilize against dangerous and extreme political ideologies.

Nonetheless, while the European and Maltese governments stand strongly against what Defend Europe stands for, the organization is backed by supporters who fear that Europe’s population is being taken over by illegal immigrants. Supporters fund Defend Europe’s missions on crowd funding websites, such as ‘WeSearchr,’ through which the organization raised more than $200,000 in donations from approximately 3,000 contributors. With this funding, Defend Europe is embarking on its missions to deliberately block search and rescue boats, claiming to protect Europe’s borders from the invasion of illegal immigrants. These missions occur mainly on the Mediterranean’s treacherous waters, as the number of distressed ships and rescue boats are high. However, by blocking rescue boats, Defend Europe is making the area increasingly hostile, which ultimately results in more lives lost at sea. For example, an active NGO in the area, Doctors Without Borders, has had to halt the use of its rescue boats because of the rising hostility.

The consequences of Defend Europe’s political ideology are severe. Nevertheless, the European and Maltese government’s solidarity against hate and extremism will prevent Defend Europe from successfully executing its operations. As a result, C-Star has already been rejected from docking on ports in Greece, Italy, and Tunisia.

Hannah Barter-Konecny