Banksy funds boat to rescue refugees crossing the Mediterranean

28 August 2020, 11:37

The vessel is called Louise Michel after a French feminist anarchist
The vessel is called Louise Michel after a French feminist anarchist. Picture: LouiseMichel

Banksy has funded a boat to help rescue refugees who attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, according to reports.

The pink and white vessel, which features a Banksy artwork of a girl in a life jacket and holding a heart-shaped buoy, has been conducting rescue efforts in secret since 18 August.

Named Louise Michel - after a French feminist anarchist - the 31-metre motor yacht flies under a German flag and is crewed with European activists who have experience in sea rescues.

It is also said to have helped hundreds of people already, according to The Guardian.

On Thursday, a Twitter account dedicated to the boat said it had rescued 89 people and was now in search of a "place of safety" for the passengers to disembark.

According to The Guardian, Banksy got involved after sending an email to Pia Klemp, a former captain of NGO vessels, in September last year, telling her: "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."

Ms Klemp told the newspaper she initially thought the email was a joke, but said she believed she had been chosen for her political stance.

She said: "I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight."

The captain said she also hoped the boat's top speed of 27 knots would help them "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."

More than 500 refugees are known to have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone - although this figure is expected to be higher.

This compares to the more than a thousand such deaths recorded in the previous year, according to the International Organisation of Migration.