Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Charter Vessel Abandoned by Right Wing Group After Accusations of People Smuggling

Debacle of Anti Migrant Mission Prompts Actions from International Unions and Aid Agencies
Shipping News Feature
SPAIN – EUROPE – NORTH AFRICA – The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) tells us it is assisting the crew of the vessel C Star, who have been abandoned unpaid in Barcelona by its charterers. The recent history of the vessel, now moored at Barcelona having rested off the coast there since 26 September is, to say the least, a chequered and interesting one. The charterers, a right wing group called Defend Europe, raised money for the venture via a crowdfunding appeal with the express purpose of sabotaging the vessels attempting to rescue refugees and migrants from sinking boats in the Mediterranean.

The ITF is working with local port state control to provide the crew with food, water and fuel and confirms that a decision has been made by port state control that the ship is now allowed to berth for humanitarian reasons. Meanwhile the vessel’s owner remains silent on the controversy, a comedy of errors which began when Defend Europe used the €75,000+ it had raised to sail from Djibouti in July en route to Catania, Sicily. What followed resembles a comic opera as the 420 tonne ship was stopped at the Suez Canal for crew improprieties which led to the arrest in Cyprus of several Sri Lankans who were supposed to disembark in Egypt. This ironically led to accusations of people smuggling and carriage of illegal aliens.

Refused access to Sicilian ports, forbidden to refuel in Tunisia and Greece and having to call for help from the very people they were supposed to sabotage when a volunteer vessel there to rescue refugees deployed to assist after an engineering problem, the failed mission to prevent NGO vessels assisting migrants who were in peril was downgraded to ‘monitoring the situation’ and shouting slogans at target vessels.

Now it seems the mission to ‘prevent the Islamification of Europe’ has failed and the ship’s crew abandoned, leading ITF seafarers’ section chair David Heindel to comment:

“Oh, the irony. This group charters a British-owned, Mongolian flag of convenience ship, with a Sri Lankan crew to protest migration into Europe, then abandons the crew in Europe. This so-called mission began as a farce, played out as a farce, and now it’s ended as a farce. Famously, the C Star was spurned at almost every stop it tried to make by local citizens and governments. Crew members have claimed asylum, and the ship has reportedly both been investigated on suspicion of people smuggling and had to call for help from one of the NGO search and rescue vessels it was supposedly blocking.

“This vessel has been like a clown car on water: overcrowded, comical, and, just like the ‘mission’ it was on, the doors quickly fell off. Sadly, it’s no surprise that the overgrown schoolboys behind it all have now abandoned the crew and left them to be looked after by the organisations they aimed to castigate, the Red Cross, the Spanish Coast Guard and the local maritime authorities.”