‘We'll sink them’: Angry activists threaten migrant traffickers’ ships arriving in Sicily

As Italy becomes increasingly frustrated with the number of African migrants reaching its shores, activists are taking matters into their own hands. They say they're ready to sink migrant-trafficking ships and ensure that asylum seekers are returned to Libya.

Anti-immigration activists are threatening to sink ships used to transport migrants off the coast of Sicily to prevent them from bringing in more people.

READ MORE: Italy in ‘tug of war’ with EU over migrants, may give them visas

"When we will be on the sea, we will find the boat of immigrants empty and when we will ensure that they are empty, we will sink it to be sure that they will not be used anymore by the smugglers," organizer of Operation Defend Europe, Clément Galant, told Ruptly.

When asked whether he or fellow activists would step in to save migrants who are drowning in the Mediterranean, Galant replied, "Yes, of course."

"We want to stop the deaths on the sea and so if we see immigrants who are in danger in the sea, we will help them of course and then we will call the Libyan Coast Guard so they can take them back to Africa."

Galant and fellow activists have been gathering in Catania for days, a city which has seen 10,000 migrants arrive this year after being rescued off the coast of Libya.

They are awaiting the arrival of the 40-meter (130ft) C-star ship, chartered by Defend Europe in a crowdfunding campaign.

The vessel, set to arrive in Catania later this month, was commissioned to search the Mediterranean for boats containing refugees and migrants.

Defend Europe will use the ship to "overwatch the NGOs, record all of the radar signals, expose possible communication with the human traffickers and intervene when they are doing something illegal," the group said in a video posted online.

"We will cooperate with the Libyan Coast Guard and inform them every time when an NGO ship tries to enter Libyan waters, and we will try to sink all the abandoned migrant traffic ships in order to prevent human traffickers from getting them back in the night, and thus draining their financial resources," the video continues.

"We will reach out to the Libyan Coast Guard and offer them our help as a recon ship," Defend Europe wrote on its website.

More than 93,000 mainly sub-Saharan African and Bangladeshi migrants have arrived in Italy by boat this year, a 17 percent increase from the same period in 2016, according to the Interior Ministry.

However, not everyone agrees with activists taking matters into their own hands.

One man who identifies as an "anti-Identitarian" activist – meaning he disagrees with those who are anti-immigrant – told Ruptly that such efforts are "an extremely serious and dangerous breakthrough from the European far-right wing – extreme far-right racist and xenophobic."

Italian residents, especially those in Sicily, are also becoming frustrated with what they say is the EU's lack of assistance.

RT spoke to one Sicilian resident who believes that while welcoming migrants is the right thing to do, responsibility must be shared with the EU as a whole.

"I believe that welcoming people is the right thing, but the European Union must pay more attention to this phenomenon and support Italy in this enormous effort. Social integration for these people is a must, but the EU cannot just look at it from afar. It needs to get involved, and not abandon Italy – and Sicily in particular," he said.

The Italian government has called on fellow EU member states and Brussels to provide more support, but its patience is wearing thin.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro stated on Tuesday that the country could soon offer asylum seekers temporary visas, allowing them to travel around the rest of the EU.

"We don't accept being turned into a European hotspot, or feeling guilty because we rescue people, so deciding what to do with the migrants who arrive is everyone's responsibility," Giro said

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti also spoke out against the issue last month, stating that Italy is under "enormous pressure."

"If the only ports refugees are taken to are Italian, something is not working," he said.

However, local Sicilian mayors say the problem isn't only with the EU, stating that the central Italian government also hasn't done enough to help the area.

Many Sicilian mayors staged protests over the weekend, stating that an unfair number of migrants are being settled in their towns. 

Some of those mayors also met at the municipality in the city of Messina on Thursday, hoping to find a solution to the crisis.