‘Racist’ boat denied Tunisia supplies 

‘Racist’ boat denied Tunisia supplies 

Tunisian fishing boats have stopped a ship carrying anti-immigrant campaigners from docking, disrupting their hopes of blocking migrant vessels leaving Africa.

The C-Star, chartered by French-based group Génération identitaire (GI), was unable to dock in Zarzis. The C-Star is expected to try another Tunisian port.

The far-right group says NGOs in the Mediterranean are working with people traffickers.

Zarzis’ fishing community labelled the anti-migrant group as racist.

The boat briefly tailed the Aquarius, operated by French group SOS Mediterranee, one of several NGOs conducting search and rescue operations in an area notorious for migrant boat sinkings.

Having left Cyprus on August 1, the 40-metre vessel was thought to be in need of supplies but the southeastern Tunisian port’s fishing community was feeling inhospitable.

“If they come here we’ll close the refuelling channel. It is the least we can do given what is happening out in the Mediterranean,” Chamseddine Bourassine of a Tunisian fishing organisation told AFP. “Muslims and Africans are dying.”

An unnamed port official said: “Us let in racists here? Never.”

The C-Star sailed directly from Cyprus to Libyan waters after being discouraged from attempting to dock in Greece and Sicily because of fears of protests.

The “Defend Europe” mission has struggled so far. The ship was held for a week in the Suez canal while Egyptian officials looked for weapons.

In the divided Cypriot port of Famagusta last month, several of its crew abandoned the ship and applied for asylum in Europe, ironically given the C-Star’s anti-immigrant mission.

Activist groups say any attempt to turn migrant boats back to Libya from European countries could be dangerous and illegal under international law.

About 600,000 migrants have been rescued from trafficking boats and brought to Italy since the beginning of 2014.

An estimated 10,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean over the same period.

Amnesty International last week accused the EU of leaving the responsibility of rescuing migrants to charities.

Meanwhile, Italy is threatening to stop ships flagged to other countries from bringing migrants to Italian ports.

Italian MPs approved a plan to send naval boats to Libya as part of its efforts to stop migrants beginning the crossing, and is asking NGO rescue vessels to abide by a code of conduct.

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