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Anti-migrant boat follows NGO vessel off Libya

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A ship carrying far-right campaigners who aim to turn migrant boats back to Africa, was following an NGO rescue vessel on Saturday with an AFP reporter on board in the waters off Libya.

The activists' "Defend Europe" mission has been financed by a crowd-funding initiative organised by young anti-immigration campaigners from France, Italy and Germany.

Their 40-metre (130-foot) ship named "C-Star", hired by "Generation Identity", arrived on Saturday in an area where tens of thousands of migrants have been rescued from unseaworthy trafficker boats over recent months and years.

The boat spent 30-45 minutes tracking the Aquarius at a distance of a few hundred metres, before continuing to follow it from further back.

The Aquarius, a converted coastguard patrol boat, is operated by French aid group SOS Mediterranee and the international humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders (MSF).

Its crew would not comment on whether they regarded the C-Star's proximity as intimidatory. Maritime charts indicated the NGO boat's speed had doubled in the time the far-right vessel was close to it.

The two boats were about 20 nautical miles off Libya in an area east of the capital Tripoli.

On its website, the Defend Europe alliance accuses NGOs of "smuggling hundred of thousands of illegal migrants to Europe, endangering the security and future of our continent" and vows to "do something against it."

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