Save the Children has strongly dismissed a claim by Katie Hopkins that she “spent time” with the crew of one of the charity’s ships whilst investigating what she believes is their collusion with people traffickers.
The denial came shortly after the columnist’s first dispatch from Sicily reporting on charities working in the Mediterranean mysteriously disappeared from the internet.
Hopkins is spending the week in southern Italy where she has been mixing with holocaust deniers and alt-right activists who believe organisations such as Save the Children are effectively enabling people traffickers.
Hopkins tweeted on Tuesday that she had spent time with workers and on Wednesday an article on her experiences appeared on MailOnline.
But the now-offline article, the URL of which contains the words “katie-hopkins-ngos-colluding-
Shortly after the article was pulled down a spokesperson for Save the Children told HuffPost UK: “Katie Hopkins has not spent time with the crew of Save the Children’s search and rescue ship.
“Nor will she set sail with us on any of our rescue missions. Our crew are busy stocking the ship with life jackets, food and water in preparation to search, rescue and save lives, in response to the instructions of the Italian Coast Guard.”
The now-removed piece was headlined:
A line in the article said: “These economic migrants having been ferried to the island by charity rescue boats seemingly as responsive and as easy to hail as an Uber taxi after a big night out in Birmingham.”
Hopkins’ report offered no evidence of collusion between NGOs and people traffickers and instead ruminated on the efficiency and cleanliness of the port of Catania.
It read: “There is no chaos or confusion.
“Instead there are German levels of calm and co-ordination. There is no sign of the marauding migrants I encountered scrambling for the fence under tear gas fire at Calais.”
Hopkins then relates how she was told she would not be allowed on a rescue boat without “approval from Rome”.
“I asked to join the crew at the dockside so they could tell me their side of their journey, hoping they would tell me what motivates them to be on board and what they would like to say to the people that accuse them of being little more than a glorified ferry.
“But despite being only a few feet away, they would not come and talk to me directly. They said they would communicate only via their press office. Efficient. Ordered. Controlled.
“It seems that everything here is controlled, to a degree that seems almost sinister. Everything here is stifling and pristine.
“Even the glossy Save the Children ship Vos Hestia got a roller of shiny new green paint before she set sail today. ”
The article then talks of an Italian couple currently charged with “corruption and cruelty to children” for collaborating with people traffickers.
Hopkins - who once called for gunboats to shoot ‘cockroach’ migrants - ends with what appears to be a display of humanity:
“All of a sudden I feel like I am backstage at the theatre, seeing the muck, filth, warts and all. There is another story here and it feels very dark.
“I wonder if Save The Children are really saving these children at all. Or exposing them to ever greater harm?
“Nothing here is quite as it seems. And it makes me want to cry for those boys.”
Hopkins was heavily criticised on Tuesday for tweeting and then deleting a picture of herself with a known Holocaust denier, Peter Sweden.
Sweden has previously used Twitter to question the fact that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust as well as expressing some sympathies for the policies of Adolf Hitler.
Hopkins was meeting the crew spending the week on the C-Star, a ship chartered by far-right activists to hinder search-and-rescue attempts.
The trip is being financed by a crowdfunding campaign which raised £91,000.
The mission’s stated aim is to “document the doings of the NGOs, expose their collaboration with the human smugglers, and intervene if they do something illegal”.
Save the Children have denied they are colluding with people traffickers. A spokesperson told HuffPost UK:
“Activities of far-right groups planning to disrupt search and rescue operations aimed at saving lives are deeply concerning.
“They ignore the moral and legal obligation to save lives at sea. Without NGOs and other search and rescue actors, many more lives, like the men, women and children we have rescued, would be lost. These activists wish to disrupt efforts to bring these people to safety.
“2016 was the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean with more than 5,000 deaths at sea, and 2017 could be worse still. As things stand, the Mediterranean Sea is one of the largest unmarked mass graves in recent times. As a humanitarian organisation, our mission is to save lives and we go where children face the greatest risks.
“During 2016 Save the Children assisted in the rescue of 2,700 refugees and migrants. So far this year the total stands at almost 4,000, including more than 625 children.”
The MailOnline and Katie Hopkins have been contacted for comment.