The captain of a ship targeting refugees by disrupting humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean has been arrested.
The ship named 'C-star', which was chartered by right-wing extremists last month, was stopped in the port of Famagusta, northern Cyprus, by port and immigration authorities, according to the Cyprus Post. The ship's captain and his deputy were reportedly taken into custody.
When their ship was seized, the extremists reportedly told the port's customs and immigration authority that C-Star was "an EU ship aiming to rescue refugees from the sea".
The anti-immigrant Identitarian movement raised more than €65,000 via a crowdfunding website earlier this year to hire the 30-person ship and launch their 'Defend Europe' mission.
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. More than 2,000 people have died making the treacherous crossing so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The group blames NGO rescue missions for propelling the refugee crisis by providing people with a safe passage to Europe.
"Our presence in front of the Libyan coast is needed to save Europe and to save lives," the group wrote on their website.
"Every week, every day, every hour – ships packed with illegal immigrants are flooding into European waters. An invasion is taking place. Our goal is to document the doings of the NGOs, expose their collaboration with the human smugglers, and intervene if they do something illegal," they continued.
Hope Not Hate, one of the UK's largest anti-extremism charities, have been closely tracking the Identitarian movement in recent months. A spokesperson said C-Star is neither an "EU ship – given it was previously flagged under the Djibouti, and probably now the Mongolian, flag – nor do its intentions involve "rescuing" refugees".
The charity previously told IBTimes UK that the 'Defend Europe' project revealed "an increasingly international threat" as the group received support from across Europe, with funds flooding in from around the world.
"While the Identitarian movement has always used controversial and confrontational tactics the hiring of this ship is emblematic of a dangerous new confidence within the movement," said Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate. "This is not the way to solve or address the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean," he added.