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A ship paid for by Banksy to rescue refugees is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea while calls for help are being ignored, its crew have said.
More than 200 people rescued off the coast of Lybia are on board the Louise Michel, as well as one dead body, according to tweets from the vessel’s account.
The crew on the former French navy boat say they cannot safely move because of an overcrowded deck and are close to declaring a ‘state of emergency’, claiming European officials are ignoring them.
On yesterday morning the ship said they rescued 89 people, including 14 women and four children, and were looking for a safe place to let them disembark.
That evening the crew took on more people after encountering an overcrowded overcrowded boat with a dead body and 130 people on board.
The vessel was filling up with water and many passengers had suffered from fuel burns.
Now the European crew of 10 say they are safeguarding 219 people as they remain stuck off the coast of Malta, with the ship well beyond its capacity of 120 passengers.
One tweet from the ship said: ‘#LouiseMichel is unable to move, she is no longer the master of her manoeuvre, due to her overcrowded deck and a liferaft 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.’
A summary of a series of calls for assistance to various authorities was also posted, but they got no answer or were told there was no assistance available, the account said.
Named after a 19th century French feminist and anarchist, the 30-metre ship features a Banksy painting depicting a young girl holding on to a heart-shaped safety float.
The vessel was bought with proceeds of some of the mystery British street-artist’s works and is captained by a professional crew with a ‘flat hierarchy and a vegan diet’.
Today the crew posted a video of the overcrowded boat, writing: ‘These are the survivors you are turning your back on #EU. After escaping untold horror and inhumanity they need a place of safety.’
A few hours later, Banksy shared a video on his official Instagram account, writing: ‘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”.’
According to the Guardian, Banksy first made contact with Pia Klemp, an experienced captain of a number NGO boats, in September 2019 asking to help.
The ship’s launch on August 18 from Burriana, Spain, had been kept secret until the crew’s first rescue.
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’.
Its mission statement is ‘to uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice’.
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