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. Her name, Louise-Michel, was in the greatest secrecy.
It is recognizable, in the middle of the Mediterranean, by its colors – pink and white – but above all by graffiti clearly signed by Banksy who represents a little girl in a life jacket swinging a heart-shaped buoy. Named after “Louise Michel” – famous French anarchist of the XIXe century -, the ship, funded by the street artist, left the Spanish port of Borriana, near Valencia, on August 18, and on Thursday recovered 89 people, including fourteen women and two children, in the Mediterranean.
This rescue operation was revealed on the night of Thursday 27 August by the British newspaper The Guardian, which does not state the exact position of the boat. “He is now looking for a safe harbor to board passengers or transfer them to a European Coast Guard vessel,” we read.
During the last week MV #LouiseMichel participated in several SAR operations. Already on the first day in the SAR zone, a small boat with 7 people of the crew on duty was found. Two survivors suffered severe dehydration and were treated by our medical team.
– LouiseMichel (@MVLouiseMichel) August 25, 2020
The artist would not be on board, assures the Guardian, which adds that the entire operation was mounted between London, Berlin and Borriana. The boat is a former French customs vessel. At 31 meters long, it is smaller in size, but significantly faster, than the usual NGO ships operating in the area, which allows it to cross the Libyan coast guard.
A twitter account in the name of the boat (@MVLouiseMichel) also sent a photo, “in a very rough sea”, of an operation to help “Sea-Watch 4”, another humanitarian ship of NGOs Médecins Sans Frontières and Sea-Watch, present in the area from the center of August.
“An experienced team from all over Europe”
“GO! A boat sponsored by Banksy and painted by him, an experienced team from all over Europe,” Louise-Michel “has already secured two rescue efforts from” Sea-Watch 4 “and has now saved 89 people by herself. We are very pleased with this pink reinforcement! “, NGO Sea-Watch published on Twitter.
“Sea-Watch 4” has so far carried out three rescues and recovered on board more than 200 people.
“European activists with long experience”
The crew consists of about ten members, “European activists with extensive experience in research and rescue at sea”.
Its captain is Pia klemp, a German human rights activist known for operating several other rescue ships, including “Sea-Watch 3”. It is still the subject of an investigation by the Italian judiciary for specific “assistance with illegal immigration”.
Banksy contacted Pia Klemp in September 2019, explains the Guardian, according to which the young woman initially thought it was a hoax. “Hi Pia, I read your story in the newspapers. You look like a bad person,” he wrote to her in an email, quoted by the newspaper.
“I’m an artist from the UK and I was working on the migrant crisis. I obviously can not keep the money. Can you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please tell,” said this message, signed “Banksy”.
“Rescue at sea, an anti-fascist struggle”
Pia Klemp believes Banksy asked her for her political commitment: “I do not see rescue at sea as a humanitarian act, but as part of an anti-fascist struggle,” she told the Guardian.
The ten sailors from “Louise Michel” all call themselves “anti-racist and anti-fascist activists in favor of radical political change”, says the Guardian.
According to Lea Reisner, the nurse responsible for the relief efforts, the project is “primarily anarchist, as it seeks to defend the convergence of the fight for social justice, including women’s rights and LGBTIQ, racial equality, migrants’ rights, environmental protection and animal rights”.
And “because it’s a feminist project, only female crew members are allowed to speak for ‘Louise Michel,'” the Guardian said. For Claire Faggianelli, another participant in the project, it is about “awakening European consciousness”.
300 migrants died at sea in 2020
This announcement comes as the year 2020 is marked by an upswing in boats in the central Mediterranean, the deadliest migration route in the world for candidates for exile to Europe, mainly from Libya and Nearby Tunisia.
More than 300 migrants have passed away this year to try the crossing, but the number may actually be much higher, estimates the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Many small migrating boats, mainly Tunisians, docked especially all summer on the Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily.
The last ship to return from the central Mediterranean, the “Ocean Viking” – chartered by SOS Méditerranée – has been immobilized by the Italian authorities “for technical reasons” since the beginning of July after leaving Sicily with 180 migrants.