Banksy’s ship calls for help after another rescue of migrants, one dead on board

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A humanitarian ship chartered in the greatest secrecy in the Mediterranean by street artist Banksy appealed for help overnight from Friday to Saturday after a massive rescue of migrants, claiming to deplore at least one death on board.

Banksy's ship calls for help after another rescue of migrants, one dead on board

The boat, the Louise Michel, on Friday recovered 130 migrants adrift aboard an inflatable boat which was taking on water, the campaign organizers tweeted on the @MVLouiseMichel account, opened for the occasion.

After a first rescue Thursday, the ship now has 219 castaways on board for only ten crew members, they said.

“We need immediate assistance,” they added, urging the European Union and the Italian authorities to act.

“There is already a dead person on the boat. The others show fuel burns, they have been at sea for days and now they are left behind in an EU search and rescue area, ”they lamented.

The ship, named after a 19th-century French anarchist and decorated with graffiti by the British artist, was chartered in the utmost secrecy. He left on August 18 from Borriana in eastern Spain, British newspaper The Guardian revealed.

“He is now looking for a safe seaport to disembark passengers or transfer them to a European Coast Guard vessel.”

According to the Marinetraffic site, the Louise Michel was on Saturday morning motionless at sea about a hundred kilometers south-east of the Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily.

The @MVLouiseMichel Twitter account also posted several photos of an operation to assist Sea-Watch 4, a humanitarian ship of the NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières and Sea-Watch, present in the area since mid-August.

“A boat sponsored by Banksy and painted by him, an experienced team from all over Europe, the Louise-Michel has already secured two Sea-Watch4 rescue operations and has now rescued 89 people on her own. We are delighted with this pink reinforcement! ”, Tweeted for its part the NGO Sea-Watch.

“Hello Pia”

Sea-Watch 4 has carried out three rescues so far, recovering more than 200 people.

The Guardian has exclusively published several photos of Louise Michel, painted in pink and white, with graffiti obviously from Banksy of a little girl in a life jacket wielding a heart-shaped buoy.

Its captain is Pia Klemp, a German human rights activist, known to have driven several other rescue ships, including the Sea-Watch 3. She is still under investigation by the Italian courts, in particular for “helping illegal immigration”.

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 operating in the area, allowing it to overtake the Libyan coast guard.

The most famous living street artist in the world, who regularly addresses the issue of the migration crisis in his works, would not be on board, assures the Guardian.

A spokesperson for the Spanish port of Borriana, interviewed by AFP, confirmed that the boat was docked there from June 23 to August 18: “They repaired and prepared the boat, by themselves, without calling on port services ”.

Banksy, who maintains the greatest mystery about her identity, 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 to her in an email.

“Convergence of struggles”

“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? ”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.

The ten sailors of the “Louise Michel” all say they are “anti-racist and anti-fascist activists in favor of radical political changes,” the daily said.

According to Lea 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 members of female crews are authorized to speak on behalf of Louise Michel”, underlines the Guardian.

The year 2020 is marked by an upsurge of boats in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migratory route in the world for candidates for exile to Europe, mainly from Libya and 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 boats of migrants, mainly Tunisians, notably docked all summer on the island of Lampedusa.

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.

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