Italy is the first country to break rank from the EU open borders policy and has apparently now started to crack down on illegal immigration from North Africa. The NGO ship, Luventa, operated by the German charity Jugend Rettet was seized by Italian authorities off the island of Lampedusa on suspicion of aiding and assisting human traffickers near the coast of Libya.
According to a statement by Italian officials, it appears they have been aware of and actively investigating this since at least last year:
Inquiries begun in October 2016, and conducted with the use of sophisticated techniques and investigative technology, have produced circumstantial evidence of the motorboat Luventa being used for activities facilitating illegal immigration.
Italian police presented photographic evidence from an undercover operation. In one photo, human traffickers can be seen meeting up with the Luventa and ferrying migrants over to the NGO ship. In another, the Luventa can be seen towing a boat used by human traffickers back towards the Libyan coast. This is particularly damning because it shows intent to minimize financial loss for the human traffickers.
According to the Italian investigators, there is no evidence that the NGO received payment for their collusion. The motivation appeared to be “humanitarian.”
Parallel to this impounding, Italy sent a navy patrol boat to the coast of Libya to assist the Libyan coast guard. The UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli approved the operation, but the rival government in Benghazi considers the Italian operation a hostile military action. According to The National:
Libyan National Army chief Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has ordered naval units to confront Italian warships in territorial waters, a day after Rome launched a mission to counter migrant smuggling from Libya.
Naval bases in Tobruk, Benghazi, Ras Lanuf and Tripoli were to “confront any marine unit that enters Libyan waters without permission of the army,” the LNA said.
It is too early to tell if there will be a military confrontation between Italian and Libyan forces. One thing is clear, however: Italy’s recent actions have lent credence to the Identitarian group Defend Europe, which Liberty Nation has written about recently. Their mission is to defend Europe from illegal immigration, while at the same time assisting the Libyan coast guard in rescuing migrants and returning them to Libya.
After much ado, they finally managed to fund their first Defend Europe action. However, when news spread that the ship was on its way from the Horn of Africa to Sicily, Antifa and other violent left-wing radical activists flew in from all over Europe to protest and attack the Identitarians.
🇬🇧 Our message to migrants is clear: "No Way! You will not make Europe your home!"
— Defend Europe (@DefendEuropeID) August 2, 2017
Anticipating a ruckus in Sicily, Defend Europe fooled Antifa and the ship harbored in Northern Cyprus instead, where they re-crewed the ship. However, the operation was not without drama. Upon arrival in Cyprus, the captain was briefly detained by the police on suspicions of human trafficking! The basis for the allegation was that one of the Sri Lankan crew who had piloted the boat from Africa claimed political asylum upon arrival.
The leader of the Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner, took a major risk by entering Turkish territory as Turkish authorities want him for having made offensive comments about their President Erdogan.
Eventually, they managed to set the course for the Libyan coast and are now operating alongside NGOs looking for refugees, but with the intent of returning them to Africa.
Previously, Defend Europe has been branded as “far right,” “white nationalists” and even “fascist” by the media, and independent journalist Lauren Southern, who covered their first operation, was recently defunded by Patreon for having participated in an activity that could allegedly endanger lives. Now, however, with the Italian navy essentially doing the same thing, it will be much harder for the media to put a negative spin on this form of activism.