Deadly Med: Italy Picks Up 49 Migrants From Banksy-Funded Boat, Leaving 400 More Stranded

Written by | Monday, August 31st, 2020

Italian coastguard has evacuated 49 people and taken to the island of Lampedusa but almost 400 others rescued refugees and migrants remained stranded in the central Mediterranean after an overcrowded rescue vessel was emptied of all the rescued people on Saturday (29 August). The German-flagged Louise Michel, which is funded by the British street artist Banksy, made a mayday call a day earlier after rescuing more than 200 people, saying the 31-metre ship had become overcrowded and unable to move. Some of the survivors were reported to have had fuel burns and had been at sea for days, with the survivors later saying three people had died at sea before the arrival of the Louise Michel.
The remaining survivors were then transferred to another charity vessel, the German-flagged Sea-Watch 4, jointly operated by the NGOs Sea Watch and Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “Louise Michel no longer has guests onboard, but the struggle of the survivors is not over,” said a Twitter account belonging to the rescue ship, adding: “Europe! SOLAS [international treaty on safety of life at sea] obliges you to rescue at sea. Open your ports now!” The Sea-Watch 4, which has a clinic on board and has itself been trying to find a host port, sailed for almost 12 hours to help the Louise Michel. The Sea-Watch 4 now has 353 rescued people, while another 27 are still on the Maersk Etienne, a Danish tanker that rescued them on 4 August after a call for assistance from the small boat they were on.
Meanwhile, the Italian left-wing collective Mediterranea announced it would send the ship Mare Ionio from the port of Augusta in Sicily to assist. Banksy’s decision to fund the Louise Michel boat comes in the wake of numerous works by the artist that has levelled scathing judgements on European authorities‘ halting response to the migrant crisis. Early this month, humanitarian organisations said they would resume migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea, which were suspended for months due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 20,000 refugees and migrants have died at sea in recent years while trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean Sea, fleeing conflict, poverty and repression in countries across Africa and the Middle East. Describing by the UNHCR as the most dangerous migration route in the world, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have jointly called for the “immediate disembarkation” of all survivors still at sea.

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