By Srijit Banerjee
1st September 2020
Rome: British street artist Banksy has recently funded a ship covered with his own artwork to rescue several migrants stuck in the Mediterranean, at least 200 people of whom have been rescued so far, reports suggest. The ship has been named after the 19th-century French anarchist, Louise Michel. This German-flagged ship left the Spanish port of Burriana on the 18th of August, ‘The Guardian’ reported late Thursday.
On that day the vessel reported to have rescued 89 migrants, with women and children in dire need of medical care and other forms of assistance. In the following days, the vessel picked up nearly 200 migrants stranded at sea and had to call for urgent help to other vessels for the transfer of these helpless passengers.
An Italian patrol vessel was rushed to the stranded MV Louise Michel with medical assistance on board. It took in 49 of the most vulnerable people on Saturday, the coastguard reports. The remaining migrants on board, around 150 people, were received by a vessel chartered by German NGO Sea Watch and medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), according to tweets from both organisations and the Louise Michel's crew. The passengers with need of immediate medical attention are being tended to.
The crew members of Louise Michel, consisting of European activists, said that the 31-metre long ship had become overcrowded and was unable to move, warning that some of the migrants had fuel burns and had been at sea for days. Given the danger of the situation, especially with a pandemic on the rise, the coastguard sent a patrol boat to Lampedusa which took in 49 people deemed the most fragile, including 32 women, 13 children and four men" a coastguard stated. Banksy, who keeps his identity a secret, explained in an online video that he had bought the boat to help migrants, "because European Union authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from non-Europeans".
Thousands of people are thought to have died making the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to flee conflict, repression and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. According to the UN refugee agency,
UNHCR, attempts by migrant boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe have increased this year, up 91 per cent from January to July over last year's figures, to 14,481 people.
Banksy's involvement in the rescue mission goes back to September 2019 when he sent Klemp an email asking how he could contribute. Klemp, who disregarded it, reported The Guardian.
Sources: The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC
Edited by Sagarika Satapathy