Anti-immigration vessel barred from docking in Catalan ports

Rejection of C-Star ship comes after months of pro-refugee actions by Barcelona

Demonstrators in the refugee welcome march in February in Via Laietana (by Jordi Pujolar)
Demonstrators in the refugee welcome march in February in Via Laietana (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Rachel Bathgate

September 18, 2017 06:19 PM

The anti-immigration vessel C-Star was spotted a few miles off the Costa Brava, the northern Catalan coast. It was subsequently denied entry, following outcries by local activists.

C-Star’s presence was first registered off the coast of the northern Catalan town Palamós, when the organization Girona Acull (Girona Welcomes) published a statement urging local activists to call their local ports to ensure the vessel would not be able to dock there. The objective is to "prevent this neo-nazi ship from docking in a port of Catalonia," read the official statement by Girona Acull.

Consequently, Catalan Government ports communicated through Twitter that they had denied the ship entry to both the Palamós port and all those that are Catalan-owned. This excludes the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona, which belong to the government of Spain. Indeed, the Minister of Territory and Sustainability Josep Rull further explained that he had instructed the ports of Tarragona and Barcelona to reject the ship as well.

The C-Star ship is operated by the anti-immigration Defend Europe organization, an organization also linked to the European anti-Islam and anti-immigrant “identitarian” movement. While sailing the Mediterranean this summer, the vessel has suffered technical malfunctions, near-rescues, and has been refused entry by activists and local governments alike. Primarily funded through the US crowdfunding website Patreon, its page and income were also recently shut down due to concerns that its presence at sea would put lives at risk, through it potentially interfering with NGO rescue missions. 

One of many 2017 initiatives

This year, Barcelona has taken several steps towards welcoming refugees, both in direct application and in the fields of culture, politics and healthcare. Home to the internationally-recognized rescue NGO ProActiva Open Arms, Barcelona also organized various initiatives over the summer. These events included a conference with international experts on the subject of refugee welcome, a new and innovative migrant integration program, and an effort to increase access to mental and physical healthcare as part of an 11-country European initiative.

Our home, your home

The citizens of Barcelona largely feel that this is still not enough. All these actions follow the February pro-refugee campaign ‘Our home, your home,’ expressing Catalonia’s wish to welcome more refugees, comprised of more than 200 Catalan associations and NGOs. The campaign included a massive benefit concert with worldwide talent, attended by an audience of 15,000, followed days later by a 160,000-strong demonstration.

During the rally, demonstrators marched holding banners with slogans such as ‘Refugees Welcome’ and ‘Enough Excuses, welcome them now.’ The objective, for Spain – and Europe as a whole - to take in more refugees. In fact, the Spanish government is bound by a 2015 European Commission distribution scheme to take in over 17,000 refugees: yet, less than 2,000 have been accepted so far. The deadline is coming up fast, on September 26

Those asylum-seekers that do arrive to Barcelona are often paid for out of pocket by the city itself. Indeed, the city is now asking the Spanish government for €2.3 million to repay what is estimated that the City Council social security has spent on housing and support – a sum that should be lightened by European funds allotted for this very purpose to the Spanish government, as an EU member state. Spain also holds ultimate sway on migration issues, so despite Barcelona’s willingness to open its arms to asylum-seekers, refugees must first be authorized by Madrid - and only 46 people have been officially approved thus far. Most recently, Barcelona just welcomed a new family of three, Syrian refugees arriving via Turkey.