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German migrant rescue ship sent to aid anti-migrant vessel in Mediterranean

A German rescue organization has been sent to assist a vessel operated by a group of anti-immigration Identitarians in the Mediterranean Sea. When the NGO arrived, however, the other ship refused assistance.

A banner that reads, 'Stop Human Trafficking' is attached to the side of the C-Star as it sails in the Mediterranean Sea

The C-Star vessel evidently came into some difficulties, but then did not need the assistance that came

An organization carrying out migrant search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean went to the aid of a boat on Friday that is run by European right-wing activists.

The C-Star, a ship chartered by an Identitarian group called "Defend Europe," experienced mechanical issues that made it unable to maneuver, said German NGO Sea-Eye in a statement on Facebook.

"Defend Europe" denied that the vessel was in distress on Twitter, writing that the boat suffered "a minor technical problem" and its engine was stopped as a result.

Sea-Eye said that the C-Star sent out a signal indicating there was an urgent situation on board and it was "asked by the MRCC Rome [the Marine Rescue Command Center in Rome] to assist the ship" as they were the closest vessel.

The NGO's ship set off to assist the C-Star, but the crew then refused assistance.

"We had radio contact. They said they don't need or want our help," Sea-Eye founder Michael Buschheuer told Reuters news agency by telephone.

Read more: Italy impounds German NGO migrant rescue ship, lawmakers boost support for Libyan coastguard

People hold banners and flags as they take part in demonstration against the C-Star in Italy

At a demonstration against the C-Star in Italy, people held banners reading: "closed for racists"

Troubled waters for C-Star

Sea-Eye is one of nine NGOs involved in migrant search and rescue operations in the Mediteranean and one of the targets of the C-Star's campaign.

"Defend Europe" chartered the ship to intercept smuggler boats before NGO groups can reach them and return them to the Libyan coast guard, rather than bringing them to Europe. The group has also said it wants to expose what it describes as "collaboration" between human traffickers and privately-funded rescue ships.

Read more: 'Defend Europe' Identitarians charter a ship to return migrants to Africa

But the C-Star has not had smooth sailing since its mission began last month.

The vessel was held up in Egypt and Cyprus before it finally reached Libya's search and rescue zone. It needed to refuel earlier this week, but was stuck off the coast of Tunisia after a powerful Tunisian union and fishermen refused to allow it access to the country's ports.

Read more: UNHCR defends NGO charity groups over migrant rescues in Mediterranean

The crew of the C-Star was also previously stopped in Cyprus on suspicion of smuggling men from Sri Lanka to Europe, but was later released.

Flying under a Mongolian flag, the ship was funded by online donations that amounted to more than $212,000 (180,000 euros). The crewmembers are German, Austrian, French and Italian.

Watch video 02:37

Charities under fire for rescuing migrants

rs/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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