A Banksy-funded migrant rescue boat was stranded for hours in the Mediterranean Sea yesterday after it became overcrowded.
There are 219 people on the Louise Michel, but one person has died, according to tweets posted from the vessel’s account.
The former French navy boat – launched under its new guise last week, featuring a Banksy painting depicting a young girl holding on to a heart-shaped safety float – was off the coast of Malta when it announced it was unable to safely move because of an overcrowded deck.
However, after significant social media attention, a rescue mission was launched.
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One tweet said: “#LouiseMichel is unable to move, she is no longer the master of her manoeuvre, due to her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed at her side, but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance. The responsible authorities remain unresponsive.”
Another read: “We repeat, #LouiseMichel is unable to safely move and nobody is coming to our aid. The people rescued have experienced extreme trauma, it‘s time for them to be brought to a #PlaceOfSafety. We need immediate assistance.”
The vessel has already carried out a number of rescue missions, according to its Twitter account, and on Friday evening said it had assisted another 130 people.
Another humanitarian aid ship, the Mare Jonio, announced it was leaving the Sicilian port of Augusta on Saturday to come to the Louise Michel‘s aid.
But the Italian coast guard beat them to it, sending a vessel to take 49 of the most vulnerable people off the ship to bring them to safety.
With overcrowding being the issue, it appears that the Louise Michel is once again able to move.
However, the refugee ship didn’t let that stop its criticism of the EU’s refugee policy.
“It‘s not over: We demand a Place of Safety for all survivors, now,” the ship said in a tweet.
“These are the survivors you are turning your back on #EU. After escaping untold horror and inhumanity they need a place of safety.
“You must act now.”
The vessel was bought with the proceeds of some of Banksy‘s works and is captained by a professional crew with a “flat hierarchy and a vegan diet”.