(CNN)A pro-migrant organization’s boat was called upon to rescue a vessel used by the anti-immigrant Defend Europe group Friday.
Michael Buschheuer, the chairman of Sea-Eye, said: “To help a ship in distress in the duty of anyone at sea, without regard for their origin, race, religion or beliefs.”
“At this stage it is not known to what extend they need rescuing and whether they will accept the help from Sea-Eye,” Buschheuer told CNN.
The Defend Europe group, which had vowed to stop the “invasion” of refugees attempting to sail to Europe, confirmed in a statement on Twitter that its vessel had “developed a minor technical problem.”
The group has struggled throughout its mission, with the C-Star being held up in Egypt and Cyprus, while its crew was also caught up in allegations of people smuggling but released for lack of evidence. Tunisia refused to allow the C-Star entry to the country’s ports.
NGO rescue ships have been under increasing pressure, with Italian authorities stepping up efforts to restrict the number of migrants attempting to cross the deadly sea route between Libya and Italy over the past few weeks.
In late July, the Italian government passed a controversial code of conduct for NGOs operating search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean, asking that the rescue boats take armed police onboard in what they say is an effort to crack down on human smugglers.
Libya is a well-known jumping-off point for many migrants seeking refuge on European shores. Many, from sub-Saharan Africa, are fleeing war and persecution; others from impoverished nations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have opted to risk their lives on the treacherous journey in the search for better economic opportunities.
Libya has become the base for a well-oiled human-trafficking operation that’s relied on the country’s lack of effective central governance to operate with relative ease.
Since the start of this year, 2,385 migrants have died on the central Mediterranean route, according to the International Organization for Migration; 114,287 migrants have reached European shores, 85% of them in Italy.
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Refugee rescue boat called to aid anti-migrant craft