A former Langley Libertarian candidate was detained by the Italian Coast Guard for trying to block a ship that rescues stranded refugees.
Right wing activist Lauren Southern, who ran as a Libertarian candidate in Langley in the 2015 federal election, was detained on May 12.
Southern was with members of a European anti-immigrant group attempting to block a ship they said was to bring migrants from North Africa.
“So guys, if the politicians won’t stop the boats, we’ll stop the boats,” Southern says on the livestream she took from the Generation Identitaire (Generation Identity) boat.
Generation Identitaire was formed in France as a nationalist, anti-immigration youth movement. It has since spread across much of Europe. On the livestream, Southern noted that there are members there from Italy, Germany, France, and Austria.
Video taken from another vessel shows the group on the small boat lit flares and moved close to the larger boat.
“Our goal was to stop an empty boat from going down to Libya and filling up with illegal migrants,” Southern said on a video posted after the incident.
The Coast Guard briefly detained and then released the group.
The boat Southern and the others identified does not bring refugees or migrants directly from Africa. The Aquarius is operated by a group called SOS Mediterranée with support from Doctors Without Borders, and is a search and rescue boat.
Refugees and migrants leaving war-torn Libya are often packed onto small, barely seaworthy vessels by people smugglers. The smugglers often abandon the boats, without fuel, in international waters.
The Aquarius and other rescue organizations and various navies and coast guards pick up survivors, but thousands have died in the past several years attempting to make the crossing.
The Italian Coast Guard’s website, in a press release dated May 13, mentions a rescue operation that picked up 484 migrants in the central Mediterranean. Seven dead bodies were also recovered, the release states.
It’s uncertain if this rescue operation has any link to the boat Southern and her group attempted to block.
Far right anti-Muslim groups in Europe have expanded in recent years, and have opposed the large number of refugees fleeing Libya and the Syrian civil war.
Southern, a former writer for the far-right online outlet The Rebel, grew up in Langley and Surrey.
She ran as the Libertarian candidate in Langley in 2015, while she was a student at the University of the Fraser Valley. However, she was controversial and was briefly removed as a candidate. Southern was re-instated after gaining support from The Rebel and US-based Breitbart.com.
Southern has recently come to the defence of American alt-right leader Richard Spencer, saying “Richard Spencer is not a white supremacist, he is a white nationalist. He believes in a white ethno-state, he doesn’t believe in whites being superior.”
Spencer has railed against Jews, led a “Hail Trump” chant at an alt-right gathering while audience members gave the Nazi salute, and called for the “peaceful” ethnic cleansing of America. The leader of the Conservative Political Action Conference called Spencer an “anti-semite.”