Yesterday HOPE not hate continued the fightback against Defend Europe, the far-right mission to hinder lifesaving work by search-and-rescue NGOs in the Mediterranean.
We revealed that the owner of the (rebranded) ship being used by Defend Europe, Sven Tomas Egerstrom, had a criminal past.
However, we have now unearthed evidence that raises the question of whether the ship, the ‘C-Star’, is carrying armed guards. This question has to be answered by Defend Europe before it begins its ‘mission’ in the Mediterranean.
Daniel Fiß, leader of the German branch of the pan-European, far-right Identitarian movement that is behind Defend Europe, told Tagesschau.de that the group would be taking security staff aboard the C-Star to “take action” against potentially-armed human traffickers. He also told Deutschlandfunk.de that there would be six crew members, aside from this security.
Interestingly Lorenzo Fiato, an Italian leader of Defend Europe, said in a recent statement that the ship’s crew were Ukrainian. Sven Tomas Egerstrom, the ship’s Swedish owner based in Cardiff, has an ongoing interest in companies which provide private armed security services at sea, specifically using Ukrainian personnel.
According to Companies House, Sven Tomas Egerstrom was a director and consultant for a company called Seamarshals Risk Management Ltd from December 2011 before resigning in March 2014. Aside from its remaining director, Stephen Mark Collins, the only other person with significant control of the company is Marshals Group Plc, which own 75% or more of the shares of Seamarshals Risk Management Ltd.
However, not only has Egerstrom been a director of Marshals Group Plc since January 31st 2017 (the same day Stephen Mark Collins resigned from this additional director role), he also owns 75% or more of its shares.
Sea Marshals Risk Management Ltd provides “armed security teams” at sea equipped with semi-automatic rifles. It recently told Wales Online that its crews included Ukrainians. Indeed, its site indicates that it is currently planning a recruitment day in Odessa, Ukraine.
In addition, the company operates in Djibouti and the Red Sea/Suez Canal which is where the C-Star (previously named the ‘Suunta’) has been for the last few months.
Egerstrom has already admitted to HOPE not hate that he has provided the Defend Europe project with a crew as part of it charter – but does this include armed Ukrainian personnel?
A concerning fact is that SeaMarshals Risk Management Ltd has had its ISO 28007 certification from the industry certification body MSS Global suspended.
The ISO 28007 certification is an international standard for private maritime security companies that provide privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships. It is designed to ensure they act lawfully and operate with best practice.
When contacted for comment MSS Global confirmed that: “SeaMarshals’ certification is currently suspended” but stated that it could not specify why, due to client confidentiality, adding that conjecture about these reasons would be unfounded as “there are hundreds of requirements in those standards”.
However, having spoken to other experts in the field it would be reasonable to assume that basis for suspension would have been ‘significant’.
More worrying still is the fact that on 12 July the C-Star met with the ‘Jupiter’, a ship carrying armed personnel.
The two ships met in the Red Sea en-route to the Suez Canal. Interestingly, the Jupiter had previously been anchored in Port Khalid in Sharjah, in the UAE, which is just a 40 minute drive from Egerstrom’s second Maritime Global Services LTD office in Dubai.
While we do not have confirmation that armed personnel from the Jupiter boarded the C-Star there are clear questions as to why the two ships met in the Red Sea.
It is also worth noting that the C-Star was recorded as a “floating armoury” in 2014, according to the Oxford Research Group’s Remote Control Project, signifying a ship used by private maritime security companies to store and hold weapons.
Does the C-Star have armed personnel on board?
The combination of Sven Egerstrom’s interests in companies providing armed security services at sea, plus his admission to HOPE not hate that he has provided a crew for the Defend Europe mission, coupled with Defend Europe’s statement that it has a Ukrainian crew and this mysterious rendezvous in the Red Sea with a boat of armed security guards, does beg that question.
Whether it has sufficiently qualified medical personnel to assist any refugees it picks up, as it says it would do (though it would attempt to take them back to Libya), is another open question.
Given these discoveries, HOPE not hate is greatly concerned about the potential for trouble to swiftly escalate in any confrontation between the C-Star and others. As it is, Defend Europe is already engaged in what seems to be a life-hindering mission, having previously talked of ‘blocking’ NGO vessels.
In the midst of its “research” aimed at perpetuating debunked narratives surrounding NGO activities, we highly doubt Defend Europe will give much thought to migrant and refugee safety when securing themselves against human traffickers.
Sadly, as is so often the case, whenever there is conflict in the Middle East there is fallout on the streets of Britain. Unsurprisingly, some…
HOPE not hate can reveal violent messages from far-right activists threatening the use of crossbows ahead of a series of far-right demonstrations this weekend. Far-right…