The ship that was bought by a group of far-right YouTubers to stop refugees getting to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea ran into trouble off the coast of Libya and was offered help by a refugee rescue boat, the group behind the rescue boat said.
A German-language Facebook status posted on Friday by the refugee rescue group Sea-Eye said it had been contacted by the EU Naval Force's (EU NAVFOR) Operation Sophia after it had been notified that the C-Star — commissioned by a far-right group called Generation Identity — was unable to move.
Ultimately, the "Nazi ship" refused the help of the rescue group, its leaders said.
An English-language version of the status provided to BuzzFeed News by Sea-Eye said the C-Star had been "in distress at sea."
EU NAVFOR spokesperson Capt. Ettore Ruiu confirmed to BuzzFeed News that a patrol aircraft had spotted C-Star in international waters near Libya at 9.00 a.m. local time (3.00 a.m. ET) having experienced an engine breakdown.
The Italian marine rescue service in Rome, the MRCC, informed Sea-Eye that its cutter was the closest vessel to the C-Star and so was dispatched to help.
Sea-Eye Chairman Michael Buschheuer said, "To help those who are in distress is the duty of everyone who is at sea — no matter their origins, skin color, religion or views."
Defend Europe — Generation Identity's campaign to fund the C-Star — then issued its own a statement on Twitter playing down the incident, and repeatedly tweeted that there was "no distress."
Its statement read: "C-Star developed a minor technical problem during the night, in order to rectify before the vessel entered the SAR zone and navigated closer to other vessels, the main engine was stopped.
"This means that under COLREG the vessel is considered 'not under command' and information of this was sent out to vessels nearby in accordance with regulations. The problem is about to be resolved."
According to the would-be rescuers, the far-right Youtubers refused their help when they got in touch via radio. The Sea-Eye then continued on its way to seek refugees in distress.
Generation Identity — the European element of a broader grouping called the Identitarian movement — claims that NGOs in the Mediterranean are not in fact rescuing refugees but are instead part of an illegal human trafficking operation.
Members of the group — which includes a number of young far-right YouTubers — were detained by Italian police in May after Periscoping themselves firing flares at refugee rescue vessels in the Mediterranean.
They purchased the C-Star through the Defend Europe crowdfunding campaign in July, which they said would help them intercept NGOs bringing refugees to Europe.
Defend Europe's stewardship of the C-Star has not been smooth. Over the course of a few weeks in July, the vessel was detained in the Suez Canal, the crowdfunding website which was the main source of the campaign's income suspended its account, and the ship's captain was detained in Cyprus.
Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Francis Whittaker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.