Anti-migrant ship ignores help from rescue activists

ROME (AFP) – Anti-immigration activists whose boat was reported in trouble said Friday they had got their engines going again, after a migrant rescue ship said it had been dispatched to help.

The C-Star, which has vowed to expose what it describes as “collaboration” between privately-funded rescue ships and people traffickers, said earlier on Twitter it had “developed a minor technical problem during the night”, leaving it adrift but not in distress.

Germany’s Sea-Eye, one of nine NGOs involved in migrant search and rescue (SAR) operations and a target of the C-Star’s campaign, said it had been “asked by the MRCC (command centre in Rome) to assist the ship”.

But later Friday a spokesman for C-Star told AFP that the boat, which had only just got going against after being blocked for five days off the coast of Tunisia, simply stopped its engines to resolve a technical problem.

This was what set off a signal to other boats in the nearby area, but not asking for help, he said.

The Sea-Eye returned to its previous route and activities once it was told its help was not needed by the C-Star.

The Italian coast guard could not be reached for a comment.

The C-Star has been plagued with problems since its mission began last month. It was initially refused permission to travel through the Suez Canal, before later being blocked over legal questions in Cyprus.