A ship chartered by an anti-immigrant group was forced to accept help from a refugee rescue boat when its engine failed off the coast of Italy.

Members of the Identitarian Movement raised more than €65,000 via a crowdfunding website earlier this year to hire the 30-person ship, named the 'C-Star', and launch their 'Defend Europe' mission.

The group blames NGO rescue missions for propelling the refugee crisis by providing people with a safe passage to Europe.

When they launched their mission in June, they vowed to "chase down the enemies of Europe" by disrupting the activities of NGO rescue ships picking up migrants travelling across the Mediterranean Sea.

The 'C-Star' suffered a mechanical failure on Friday morning (11 August), forcing the crew to issue a distress call to the Italian coastguard.

On the Defend Europe Twitter page, the group wrote: "The C-Star is having a technical difficulty. We're resolving it."

A German refugee rescue boat named Sea-Eye responded to the call and rushed to help the troubled vessel.

"As our Sea-Eye cutter is closest to the C-Star, we were commissioned by MRCC Rome (the sea tributary centre for the western Mediterranean) to help the ship. The Sea-Eye currently on the way to the C-Star," a spokesperson for Operation Sophia said.

Michael Buschheuer, the chairman of Sea-Eye, said: "To help in distressed persons is the duty of everyone who is at sea – indifferent to their origin, skin color, religion or spirit."

Last month, the C-Star also ran into trouble when it was seized by immigration authorities in Cyprus. The ship's captain and his deputy were reportedly taken into custody.

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The Identitarian movement chartered this ship to 'defend' Europe from illegal immigrationYouTube/Defend Europe