The continued wave of mass migration from Africa to Europe has led to a huge range of political and humanitarian issues, and as a result, Europe is becoming increasingly divided into left-wing pro-immigrant and right-wing anti-immigrant camps. On the pro-immigrant side are countless NGOs that have been helping European governments to patrol the waters off the coast of Libya. These NGOs have been assisting with the rescue effort in an attempt to prevent the all-too-common catastrophic loss of life that occurs when boats overloaded with refugees attempt to make the treacherous trip across the Mediterranean.
Now the Mediterranean is set to get even more crowded after a right-wing pan-European group stated that it would now begin patrolling the coast of Libya in an effort to stop refugees from reaching Europe. Part of the so-called Identitarian Movement, representatives from Defend Europe recently announced that they had successfully crowdfunded over $117,000 to support their efforts to “stop the deadly migration into Europe.”
A Right-Wing “Search & Rescue” Mission
Defend Europe’s crowdfunding efforts allowed it to purchase a 130-foot (40 meter) boat, the C-Star, that it says it will be used to support the Libyan Coast Guard’s reconnaissance efforts. Although Defend Europe will respond to any distress signals it receives, it will make sure that the refugees are directly returned to Africa. In this way, it seems that it will come down to a race to see whether Defend Europe or one of the NGOs can reach the refugee boats faster. If an NGO reaches the boat, the refugees will get their wish of at least temporarily reaching Europe. If not, and Defend Europe wins the race, they’ll be immediately taken back to the deplorable conditions in Libya.
In addition to its own ‘search and rescue’ missions, the C-Star’s 15-person crew will apparently monitor the NGO search-and-rescue efforts and plans to intervene should the NGOs do anything illegal. Of course, it is not entirely clear exactly how they might intervene or what might constitute an illegal action in their eyes. Considering the huge ideological differences between Defend Europe and the NGOs, things obviously have the potential to get extremely heated.
Who is Defend Europe?
The Identitarian Movement, also known as Generation Identity, has quickly spread across Europe. The majority of members are under the age of 30 and primarily use social media to spread their message about how the influx of migrants is destroying European culture and identity. Interestingly enough, the majority of the members of Defend Europe are not actually European citizens. Instead, the group is primarily made up of Americans and Canadians, and it is these North Americans who are joining the front line in right-wing Europe’s fight against migration.
Defend Europe’s announcement has already forced the government of Italy to consider instituting a Code of Conduct for all NGO search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean. In this way, the group may have achieved a small victory. However, most experts see the group’s crowdfunding campaign and resultant patrol effort to be mostly symbolic—a true search-and-rescue operation costs millions to run. Either way, it seems that the European migration debate is set to heat up even further.