Defend Europe has been at sea for nine days now, well into its mission to “expose NGOs” operating migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean.
The crew of the C-Star have been busy on social media informing donors of where their £151,000 (and counting) is being spent.
Here’s a roundup of the jaunt so far (not including the setbacks suffered before they even started). They have...
1) Shouted At A Ship
With a megaphone, from half a mile away. HuffPost UK can confirm that no one aboard the Aquarius heard the message.
2) Radioed Two Ships
Defend Europe’s leader, Martin Sellner, radioed the crew of the Aquarius and the Golfo Azzuro, saying: “We will watch you and the days of your unwatched doings are over.”
This was witnessed by various members of the international media who have been watching the NGO missions for years.
It is not known if Sellner addressed Italian and Libyan coastguard vessels who also rescue migrants from the Med.
3) Unfurled A Banner
In a “meet the crew” video, it was revealed all but one of the crew had been suffering from sea sickness.
5) Unfurled A Flag
6) Been Blocked From A Tunisian Port By Fishermen
Chamseddine Bourassine, the head of a local fishermen’s organisation, told AFP: “It is the least we can do given what is happening out in the Mediterranean. Muslims and Africans are dying.”
7) Claimed Credit For Something That Would Have Happened Anyway
Rapidly developing events on the ground relating to the migrant crisis have outpaced Defend Europe mission but that hasn’t stopped them trying to take some of the credit.
Which brings us to an important point - whilst Defend Europe is muddled and confused about what it is actually trying to do, there is a situation that needs to be addressed.
There is a migrant crisis of which Italy is bearing the brunt, turning the issue into a heated debate ahead of elections next year and giving populist movements in the country a significant boost.
The Italian Government has become increasingly concerned with migrants and the people-smugglers and wants other EU countries to share the burden.
Last week it authorised a limited naval mission to help Libya’s coastguard curb migrant flows.
It has also been fighting with the NGOs over a new code of conduct to regulate rescue missions which culminated last week with the seizure of a vessel belonging to Jugend Rettet, one of the five of eight groups which did not sign up to the new rules.
Ambrogio Cartosio, chief prosecutor in the western Sicilian city of Trapani, has accused Jugend Rettet of aiding the people-smugglers but stopped short of saying there was a “coordinated plan between the NGOs and the Libyan traffickers” as Defend Europe claim, adding that such a thing is “fantasy”.
A solution in the short-term seems unlikely but until the situation is resolved people will continue to make the perilous trip across the Mediterranean which has already led to the deaths of at least 2,400 people this year alone.