Dozens rescued from Banksy-funded migrant boat in Mediterranean sea

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Dozens of refugees stranded on a Banksy-funded rescue boat in the Mediterranean have been saved by the Italian Coastguard.

At least 49 of the “most vulnerable survivors” were taken from the Louise Michel vessel around 12 hours after the ship’s leaders issued emergency calls for help.

There had been 219 passengers, including 33 in a life raft deployed by its side and one dead body, according to messages posted on the boat’s official Twitter account.

The former French navy boat was left stranded off the coast of Malta on Saturday morning, those on board said.

MV Louise Michel: Banksy Lifeboat Operation – In pictures

Organisers of the vessel, which features a Banksy painting of a young girl grasping a heart-shaped safety float, said it could not move safely owing to an overcrowded deck.

A series of calls for help to various authorities was made over the course of almost four hours on Friday evening, but calls had either gone unanswered or they were told there was no assistance available, the crew said.

In an update on Saturday afternoon, the vessel’s leaders said the Italian Coastguard had come to help, and that another rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 would “assist us doing what Europe falters to do”.

The tweet read: “Update: The Italian Coastguard took over 49 of the most vulnerable survivors! That’s great – and leaves us with the majority still waiting.

“By now, Sea Watch 4 arrived on scene & will assist us doing what Europe falters to do, having 201 guests on board themselves for days now…”

Earlier in the day, a video was posted to Banksy’s Instagram account showing the boat at work.

It was accompanied by the words: “Like most people who make it in the art world, I bought a yacht, to cruise the Med.

“It’s a French navy vessel we converted into a lifeboat because EU authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from ‘non-Europeans’.”

The footage ended with the words All Black Lives Matter.

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”.

The Guardian reported that the British street artist first made contact with Pia Klemp, an experienced captain of a number NGO boats, in September 2019 asking to help.

The project aims to help fill a void left by European authorities, who the organisers say are “leaving desperate people to drift helplessly at sea”.

The Louise Michel’s mission statement is “to uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice”.