ROME | Street artist Banksy has funded a new ship to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, which is already in the area and has rescued 89 people.
Named after 19th-century French anarchist “Louise Michel”, the ship decorated with the British artist’s graffiti left on August 18 from the Spanish port of Borriana, near Valencia, revealed on Thursday night in British newspaper The Guardian on Friday.
It was chartered in the greatest secrecy, and on Thursday recovered 89 people, including 14 women and two children, in the central Mediterranean according to this newspaper, which does not specify the exact position of the boat.
“He is now looking for a safe seaport to disembark passengers or transfer them to a European Coast Guard vessel.”
A Twitter account in his name (@MVLouiseMichel) also posted a photo, “in a very rough sea”, of an operation to assist Sea-Watch 4, another humanitarian ship of the NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières and Sea-Watch , present in the area since mid-August.
“GO! (in French in the text) a boat commissioned by Banksy and painted by him, an experienced team from all over Europe, the Louise-Michel has already secured two rescue operations from the Sea-Watch4 and has now saved 89 people by him -even. We are delighted with this pink reinforcement! ”, For its part published the NGO Sea-Watch on Twitter.
The Sea-Watch 4 has carried out three rescues so far, recovering more than 200 people on board.
The Guardian has exclusively published several photos of Louise Michel, painted in pink and white, with graffiti obviously by Banksy of a little girl in a life jacket wielding a heart-shaped buoy.
The crew is made up of around ten members, “European activists with long experience in research and rescue at sea”.
Its captain is Pia Klemp, a German human rights activist, known to have led several other rescue ships, including the Sea-Watch 3. She is still under investigation by the Italian justice system, for “Help with illegal immigration” in particular.
The boat is a former French customs vessel. At 31 meters long, it is smaller in size, but considerably faster than the usual NGO ships intervening in the area, allowing it to overtake the Libyan coast guard.
The artist would not be on board, assures the Guardian, who adds that the whole operation was mounted between London, Berlin and Borriana.
Banksy contacted Pia Klemp in September 2019, explains the Guardian, according to which the young woman initially believed in a hoax. “Hello Pia, I read your story in the newspapers. You look like a badass, ”he wrote in an email, quoted by the newspaper.
“I’m an artist from UK and I worked on the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something like that? Please let me know, ”said this message, signed“ Banksy ”.
Pia Klemp believes that Banksy asked her for her political commitment: “I do not see the rescue at sea as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she told the Guardian.
“Convergence of struggles”
The ten sailors of the “Louise Michel” all say they are “anti-racist and anti-fascist activists in favor of radical political changes”, specifies the Guardian.
According to Léa Reisner, a nurse in charge of the relief operations, the project is “first and foremost anarchist, since it intends to defend the convergence of struggles for social justice, including the rights of women and LGBTIQ, equality race, migrant rights, environmental protection and animal rights ”.
And “since it is a feminist project, only female crew members are authorized to speak on behalf of Louise Michel”, underlines the Guardian.
For Claire Faggianelli, another participant in the project, it is about “awakening European consciousness”.
This announcement comes as the year 2020 is marked by an upsurge in boats in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migratory route in the world for candidates for exile to Europe, mainly from Libya and the Neighboring Tunisia.
More than 300 migrants have perished this year attempting the crossing, but the figure could actually be much higher, estimates the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Many small migrant boats, mainly Tunisians, have notably docked all summer on the Italian island of Lampedusa, in the south of Sicily.
The last ship to return from the central Mediterranean, the Ocean Viking – chartered by SOS Méditerranée – has been immobilized since early July by the Italian authorities “for technical reasons” after disembarking in Sicily with 180 migrants.