A xenophobic alt-right group in Europe has been fundraising to purchase boats in order to chase down vessels rescuing refugees. Identitarians – a loosely organized network of far-right millennials inspired by the French group Generation Identity – are looking to deploy tactics traditionally used by progressive groups such as Green Peace in order to deter what they see as the enabling influence of NGOs saving refugees making the perilous journey to Europe.
Many fear that these antics will only endanger the lives of both migrants and those coming to their aid. SOS Méditerrenée – a transnational nonprofit that organizes rescue missions for refugees traveling across the Mediterranean on dangerous, makeshift rafts – released a statement decrying the threat posed by meddling right-wing activists after one of its ships was accosted by a boat piloted by Indentitarians:
During the last weeks, we were confronted with two incidents in which far-right activists have expressed their resentment with the life-saving work that SOS Méditerrenée is carrying out in the Central Mediterranean for more than one year now. We regard these incidents as part of the enormous challenges that we and other humanitarian organizations are currently confronted with. Saving lives is a moral and legal duty. SOS Méditerrenée will continue its works as long as people fleeing war, torture and poverty, have to risk their lives on perilous journeys.
An Austrian Identitarian leader named Martin Sellner told Vox that he and his ilk are not racist:
We are not racist…We believe all cultures and all people are equal, have a right to preserve and maintain their cultural identity. And by securing our borders….we want to preserve the real cultural diversity of the world. Because when Europe becomes Islamized, in fact it is a loss of diversity and a loss of culture.
While Identitarians have mainly steered clear of Nazi imagery or symbolism, they have been drawn to the new aesthetic of the far right, embodied by the the Greek lambda letter and the infamous Pepe the Frog cartoon. Rhetorically, the group drifts perilously close the brand of fascism that devastated the world during the first half of the 20th century, interchanging an obsession with blood purity with one of cultural purity.
In a heartening sign, anti-racist activists crowdfunded on behalf of rescue organizations after news of the Identitarians’ fundraising success circulated online. Anti-racist crowdfunding has since far outpaced alt-right campaigns.