A new far-right movement in Europe designed to attract millennials is stirring controversy for a crowdfunding campaign seeking to launch their own border patrol in the central Mediterranean Sea, reports the HuffPost.
The Identitarian Movement (or IB) is modeled after youthful progressive activist movements in image only. In ideology it is as far right as its predecessors, and it's guided by the white nationalist belief that Europeans' ways of life are under threat due to the influx of refugees and migrants from Africa.
Founded by Austrian Martin Sellner, the IB is mostly young professionals under the age of 30 who use social media to spread their message. They've been referred to as "hipsters of the far-right," the conservative answer to a predominately left-leaning youth. While their ideology can be easily connected to European far-right movements, Sellner protests that he sees no similarities.
“We see ourselves as patriots, not neo-Nazis,” he insisted to CNN in 2016. “We don’t hate immigrants. But we also don’t want to see the country change and end up minorities in our countries. We wanted to express this opinion without anti-Semitism, without the racism of the old right.”
Yet, Sellner's reasons for founding IB echo an old and problematic tune: “If you invite the whole of Africa, you don’t have Africa. You become Africa.”
Defend Europe is the movement's most famous project to date, a crowdfunding initiative to raise money for a ship members will use to derail the rescue of migrants by non-government organizations (NGOs) like Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. Paypal blocked donations to the movement's fundraising page in June, but they have still managed to raise over $120,000 through other channels.
“Our goal is to step in where our politicians are failing and to do what is necessary to stop the deadly illegal migration into Europe,” states the IB website. “An invasion is taking place. This massive immigration is changing the face of our continent. We are losing our safety and our way of life and there is a danger we Europeans will become a minority in our own European homelands.”
Sellner insists that Defend Europe is not without heart though, as they will rescue anyone in distress. However, they will then promptly send the migrants back to where they were trying to escape from.
According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 90,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the central Mediterranean in 2017 alone, 15 percent of whom are children. More than 2,200 have died at sea. It is a tragic reality that IB acknowledges to an extent, as part of their campaign is "to stop the drowning on the sea."
They fail to recognize, however, the importance NGOs play in circumventing these deaths. In just one example of how lifesaving these organizations can be, NGOs rescued over 80,000 people over Easter weekend and were able to safely ferry them to Italy.
While the mass arrival of migrants and refugees can overextend countries like Italy, UNICEF refugee and migrant spokeswoman Sarah Crowe said that simply sending them back to Africa is not a viable solution. It merely returns them to sites of ever-escalating abuse, prompting them once again to make the dangerous journey to Europe.
“One of the reasons why migrants ― children particularly ― take these journeys is because what’s happening at home...pushes them to do so,” Crowe explained. “If you have a lion at your back and the sea in front of you, you’re going to take the sea.”
The IB's version of vigilante activism has a high likelihood of failing logistically, as a rescue mission designed to accomplish all they wish to accomplish safely costs millions per month. The HuffPost notes that they may achieve a symbolic status, which is powerful in its own right. However, that ultimately wastes time, money, and resources that could be spent doing something that actually contributes to solving the migrant and refugee crisis.