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The street artist Banksy has financed a rescue boat to help those traversing from North Africa to Europe.
The extremely visible pink and white motor yacht set sail in secret, so it could fly under the radar of authorities and reach migrant boats quicker than port authorities.
The rescue boat, fittingly called Louise Michel after the French feminist and anarchist, began its journey from the port of Burriana, near Valencia, Spain, on August 18. 10 days later, it’s in the middle of the Mediterranean. On Thursday alone, August 27, its crew rescued 89 people, which included 14 women and children.
Currently, the boat’s seeking a safe European port to disembark its refugee passengers or transfer them to a European coastguard for safe passage, The Guardian reports.
The ship’s crew, made up of experienced European activists when it comes to search and rescue operations, are already responsible for saving a further 105 people in peril. They are now with the Non-Government Organisation (NGO) vessel Sea-Watch 4.
The boat bears a distinct look and has artwork synonymous with some of the British artist’s more iconic imagery, adapted to fit in with the rescue boat’s mission. Banksy’s famous girl with a balloon is now a girl in a life jacket throwing a buoy. The Louise Michel sails with a German flag and is a 31-metre motored yacht. It was formerly owned by the French customs authorities, and while it’s smaller than other NGO rescue boats it is notably quicker. It’s a top speed of 27 knots, which is around 50k/h.
While other celebs show off big cheques or do other forms of publicity-based charity work, Banksy’s been quietly going about the rescue of refugees in a more covert way. Dating back to September 2019, the artist sent a message to the captain of a number of NGO boats, Pia Klemp, because he wanted to help.
His letter read:
Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass. I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.
At first Klemp didn’t know if the letter was genuine, as she previously told The Guardian: ‘I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight.’
She also confirmed that while Banksy’s involvement is not hands-on, he financially backs what they are doing without being active in their actual operations: ‘Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists,’ she said.
The Louise Michel is able to ‘outrun the so-called Libyan coastguard before they get to boats with refugees and migrants and pull them back to the detention camps in Libya,’ Klemp also said, which allows them to save people before they’re detained and inevitably sent back to the country they’re escaping from.
You can find more information on the Louise Michel’s work and mission statement here.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
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