UPDATE: Doubts have now been cast about the veracity of the story, with the secretary of the Modena Lega Nord saying he had not heard of the men involved. The Malta Independent and the Italian news sites have now taken down their versions of the story.
Italian right-wing activists have reportedly had to be rescued from drowning, after a stunt attempting to show how easy it is to cross between Italy and Tunisia went embarrassingly awry.
Last week, it is alleged by Maltese media, seven hapless members of the anti-immigration party Lega Nord attempted to make a point about the volume of asylum seekers coming from Africa to Europe, by sailing a rubber dinghy from Italy to Tunisia, flying the party's flag.
But just off the cost of Malta, the dighy's motor is alleged to have caught fire and the men were forced to call for assistance, according to Malta's Independent newspaper.
The flag of the Lega Nord was reportedly flying from the dinghy (file photo)
Managing to put out the fire, the men are said to have launched a distress signal but apparently fired the launcher the wrong way round, directly into the boat, and were all dumped into the sea.
After then reportedly launching a second distress flare, the Maltese Armed Forces spotted troubled dinghy, and came to their rescue.
The seven included brothers Diego and Giovanni Murtaro, Michele Brambilla, Gino Troisi, Giacomo Gremini, Fausto Sarti and Remo Girenni, and party secretary Matteo Salvini, all from the northern Italian town of Modena.
The men will now allegedly have to pay costs for their rescue to the Maltese Armed Forces, the paper said.
The seven have been roundly mocked in Italian and Maltese media.
"Instead of covering themselves with glory, they only succeeded in covering themselves with ridicule," the Maltese paper said.
"And they actually proved that it is easy for sea trips of this sort to end in tragedy – and in Malta, where neither they nor asylum seekers want to land."