Some young European far right-wingers are so fed up with migrants reaching the continents shores that theyve decided to take matters into their own hands. The group is raising money to run its very own border patrol mission in the waters separating Libya and Italy.
The Identitarian Movement (known as IB)tries to appeal to its cohorts by putting a youthful spin on one of the far rights favorite narratives: Migrants are destroying Europes social fabric. These hipsters of the far right are mostly young professionals under the age of 30 who preach primarily through social media.
The groups most high-profile endeavor so far is Defend Europe, a crowdfunding initiative to that aims to thwart rescue missions by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the central Mediterranean Sea.
PayPaltook IBs fundraising page downin June. Yet the group found workarounds and said it had raised more than $117,000 as of Monday.
It used the funds to purchase a ship and hire a crew to keep an eye on NGO search-and-rescue missions and intervene when theyre doing something illegal, IB founder Martin Sellner said last week in a YouTube video. He claims that IBs crew will also rescue anyone in distress if its ship receives an SOS signal, but the group then will do everything in its power to send the people back to Africa.
Our goal is to step in where our politicians are failing and to do what is necessary to stop the deadly illegal migration into Europe, according to the IB website. An invasion is taking place. This massive immigration is changing the face of our continent. We are losing our safety and our way of life and there is a danger we Europeans will become a minority in our own European homelands.
IB blames humanitarian organizations likeDoctors Without BordersandSave the Children which, alongside the Italian coast guard and the European Unions border patrol, man vessels that rescue migrants and bring them to safety in Italy for exacerbating the migrant crisis across Europe by enabling human traffickers. Traffickers are more likely to send people out to sea, the argument goes, if theres a panoply of rescue options in place.
The NGOs are nothing less [than]a part of the international human [trafficking]ring and the migrant business, according to IBs website.
In his YouTube video, Sellner also made clear his groups objection to the flow of migrants into Europe. If you invite the whole of Africa, you dont have Africa, he said. You become Africa.
Almost 90,000 refugees and migrants 15 percent of whom are children have crossed the central Mediterranean Sea to Italy so far in 2017. More than 2,200 have died en route.
The influx has placed many European countries especially Italy under serious strain. Yet the efforts of the NGOs have mitigated the scale of the humanitarian crisis.Thousands of peoplehave been rescued over a period of a few days.
Its not a burden the E.U. can shoulder alone. Yet sending people back to countries like Libya isnt a long-term solution, said Sarah Crowe, UNICEF refugee and migrant spokeswoman. Smuggler networks have flourished in the lawless state, luring people therewith promises of work. What these migrants often find instead is rampantabuse, imprisonment and sexual exploitation, propelling them to flee towards Europe.
One of the reasons why migrants children particularly take these journeys is because whats happening at home … pushes them to do so, Crowe said. If you have a lion at your back and the sea in front of you, youre going to take the sea.
NGOs claim they are filling the vacuum that European governments created and are merely fulfilling their life-saving obligations. Yet critics contend that the emergence of more search-and-rescue boats has spurred more people to attempt the perilous journey.
The NGOs are almost like a ferry service.Its almost as if the smugglers were putting people directly on NGO boats,an anonymous European official told Reuters in May.
Italys government last week proposed a code of conductfor NGOs operating in the Mediterranean. But officials with these organizations expressed concerns the rules will limit their ability to effectively carry out their missions by preventing vessels from entering Libyan waters.
The debate is fodder for far right groups across Europe, which have experienced a resurgence in response to issues such as the migrant crisis and terrorism.
Martin Sellner, IBs founder, insists that he sees no parallels between his ideology and Europes more traditional far right movements.
We see ourselves as patriots, not neo-Nazis, he told CNN last year. We dont hate immigrants. But we also dont want to see the country change and end up minorities in our countries. We wanted to express this opinion without anti-Semitism, without the racism of the old right.
The group did not immediately respond to HuffPosts request for comment.
IBs foray into the central Mediterranean will likely prove to be more symbolic than anything else. A properly run search-and-rescue mission costs millions of dollars per month. Those who have already been operating in the area for years, Crowe said, are still vastly underfunded.