Maltese Government Turns Away Anti-Migrant Vessel

The Maltese government has denied a vessel charted by the far-right activist group Defend Europe access to its ports.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta announced that the C-Star, a 25-man vessel chartered by the anti-migrant Defend Europe group to participate in a campaign of disruption throughout the Mediterranean, had been barred from docking at any Maltese ports. While the spokesperson stated that the C-Star had yet to request permission to dock, he indicated that the Maltese government was pre-emptively making its stance known and that any request received by the vessel would have been soundly rejected. The spokesperson defended the government’s decision, stating that Defend Europe and, “all that [they] stand for,” went against the values of not only Malta, but all of Europe as, “Europe and Malta stand for solidarity and respect for human dignity.” The government’s decision has been lauded by local NGOs who, in a joint statement, emphasized the growing danger posed by groups such as Defend Europe and celebrated the rejection as one which, “[…] sends out a clear message against the politics of hate and extremism.” Malta has increased backing for pro-migrant NGOs, supporting the Migrant Offshore Aid Station which has saved, according to their website, an estimated 37,000 refugees since its establishment in 2014.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), upwards of 118 000 refugees have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean in 2017 alone. Majority of these people are fleeing abject poverty, war and strife in their homelands across North Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Many barriers exist precluding these individuals from immigrating legally and thus, out of desperation, they are forced to rely on smugglers. Packed onto ships barely sea-worthy, these refugees set out across the Mediterranean, hoping to land before their vessel sinks. Unfortunately, their odds are not good, with 1 in 36 migrants dying at sea, and more than 2,400 in 2017, according to the IOM. NGOs operating in the region primarily perform search-and-rescue operations, attempting to save those who have fallen overboard as well as performing preventative measures, towing located migrant vessels to European ports. However, recent opposition by the Libyan government has forced many NGOs to halt operations, citing security concerns.

Defend Europe has been vocal on social media since the Maltese government’s announcement, stating that denying the vessel entry will be viewed in the future as, “a historic disgrace.” The crew of the C-Star belong to the Identarian Movement, an anti-migrant, pro-Western youth movement originating in France during 2002. The Defend Europe campaign launched in July of 2017 with a stated goal of disrupting migrant rescue operations initiated by various NGOs, who they accuse of colluding with smugglers. These efforts, the group claim, help to combat human trafficking and illegal immigration into Europe via the Mediterranean. However, statements made by the group accusing migrants of attempting to “invade” Europe, highlight its members lack understanding while dispelling any sense of altruism projected by their stated goals. The C-Star had earlier been denied access to ports in Italy, Greece and Tunisia after the European parliament labelled it as a “ship of hate.”

Meanwhile, in a time where the global political divide is increasingly defined by degrees of extremism, the decision to snub the C-Star was a statement of non-neutrality, a reflection of the maintenance of humanitarianism within the populations of Malta and across the Mediterranean and, most importantly, a refusal to admit the politics of the far-right into the realm of acceptable thought. These refusals were consistently met with widespread support by the citizenry of the affected countries, reactions which help to dispel the belief that support for the far-right is increasing manifold. Thus, it is hoped that in the face of growing opposition, European governments continue to be magnanimous and dole out increased support for NGOs and migrants in need.