Street artist Banksy has bought a rescue boat to save refugees in distress trying to get to Europe from north Africa.
The white boat, named Louise Michel, is adorned by the artist’s work including a picture of a young girl in a life vest, holding a pink safety buoy in the shape of a heart.
Yesterday Louise Michel rescued 89 refugees from the central Mediterranean, according to the Guardian, and is looking for a seaport to take the passengers.
In September 2019 Banksy emailed former captain Pia Klemp, who has worked on several NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people:
“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.”
Despite first thinking it was a joke, Klemp and the other crew members went ahead with the project in secrecy, so that it could not be stopped before it set sail for the first time.
Klemp told the Guardian that she hopes the boat will “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.”
Since 2016, as far-right populist parties with an anti-immigrant agenda gained ground, EU member states have collaborated with the Libyan coastguard to return refugees hoping to get to Europe on dinghies and small wooden boats, back to Libya.
In 2017 alone the coastguard reduced the number of people arriving in Italy from 144,000 to 46,000, according to Info Migrants, however, with that the death toll rose. The following year, 1 in 35 people died on the Central Mediterranean route, compared with 1 in 50 the year before.
Libya’s coastguard has deliberately sabotaged rescue operations by volunteer rescue boats, and its members been accused of being involved in smuggling networks and torture.
Human Rights Watch says Europe’s support for Libya’s coastguard has “facilitated the containment of tens of thousands of women, men and children in a country where they have been exposed to appalling abuse.”
Along with other rights groups, HRW are calling on EU institutions to “stop any actions trapping people in a country where they are in constant, grave danger.”
Just last month Banksy donated one of his works, worth over $1 million, to auction to help fund a stroke unit and buy children’s rehabilitation equipment at a hospital in Bethlehem, Palestine.
The work, Mediterranean Sea View 2017, depicts seas and a shoreline littered with orange life jackets and buoys.