The mayor of Catania has said a ship chartered by a group of alt-right millennial activists intent on stopping migrants crossing the Mediterranean is not welcome to dock in the Sicilian port city.
Enzo Bianco has vowed to do all he can to prevent the C-star ship, which has been rented by a group calling itself Defend Europe, from entering the city’s port.
The group of right-wing activists from Europe and the US said it rented the boat to keep tabs on humanitarian organisations working off the coast of Libya, which it accuses of colluding with people smugglers to bring migrants to Europe.
Its members, who say their mission is to preserve Europe’s identity, claim NGOs operating in the region are helping human trafficking gangs make millions of euros by picking up migrants stranded on unseaworthy vessels that have no chance of reaching the coast of Italy.
“They are like vigilantes, people who take the law into their own hands without having any authority,” Bianco said of the right-wing activists.
“The people on this boat are not welcome and I will certainly be asking the authorities to stop, for reasons of public safety, its docking at our port.
“Catania… has received thousands of desperate people fleeing war and hunger, people saved from death by European ships in the Mediterranean who often have lost one or more loved ones crossing the sea.
“To talk of the ‘defence of Europe’ is demagogic and self-serving.”
Defend Europe raised £93,000 to charter the ship for the stunt, and have attracted support from controversial figures on the right such as Canadian YouTuber and author Lauren Southern and British Mail Online columnist Katie Hopkins.
In a statement on its website, the group said: “Every week, every day, every hour – ships packed with illegal Immigrants are flooding into European waters.
“An invasion is taking place. This massive immigration is changing the face of our continent. We are losing our safety and our way of life and there is a danger we Europeans will become a minority in our own European homelands.”
Some Italian politicians and security officials have also argued that charities working to help migrants in the Mediterranean are actually helping people smugglers.
In February, Frontex boss Fabrice Leggeri told German daily De Welt: “We must avoid supporting the business of criminal networks and traffickers in Libya through European vessels picking up migrants ever closer to the Libyan coast.
“This leads traffickers to force even more migrants onto unseaworthy boats with insufficient water and fuel than in previous years.”
Italy has taken by far the most Mediterranean migrants since the beginning of the year, accepting over 93,000, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.