The ship chartered by far-right group Defend Europe to hamper the rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean has been evacuated and its Captain and Deputy Captain arrested in Cyprus, according to local media.
The Kibris Postasi reports the pair were detained for allegedly forging false documents and the rest of the crew of the C-Star have been taken off and escorted to a local police station.
Satellite-tracking shows the vessel currently moored in Famagusta on the Turkish east coast of the Mediterranean island.
In a series of vague tweets Defend Europe appeared to suggest the reports were “fake news”.
Defend Europe could not be contacted for comment but released a statement on their Facebook page accusing NGOs of bribing the ship’s Sri Lankan crew to apply for asylum in Cyprus.
The group has accused charities such as Save the Children of effectively acting as human traffickers by rescuing them from peril and chartered the C-Star to “document the doings of the NGOs, expose their collaboration with the human smugglers, and intervene if they do something illegal”.
Its intended destination is the port of Catania in Sicily where many of the NGOs operate from under the guidance of the Italian Coastguard.
The group’s latest tweet was picture of one such boat moored in the port.
But a sustained campaign by Hope Not Hate has meant every move by Defend Europe has been scrutinised.
The mission got off to a rocky start last week when it was briefly detained near to the Suez Canal.
The trip is being financed by a crowdfunding campaign which raised £118,000.
Save the Children has denied the claims made by such groups.
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.”