29.08.2020 Europe

Banksy-funded Mediterranean rescue vessel calls for urgent help

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
© via REUTERS - MV Louise Michel
LISTEN AUG 29, 2020
© via REUTERS - MV Louise Michel

The refugee rescue vessel funded by British street artist Banksy has said it is stranded and needs urgent help on Saturday after lending assistance to a boat in the Mediterranean that was carrying at least one dead migrant.

The German-flagged Louise Michel said it was overcrowded and unable to move after encountering another boat attempting to cross the expanse dividing Europe and Africa with 130 people on board.

"There is already one dead person on the boat. We need immediate assistance," the crew of the 31-metre Louise Michel wrote on Twitter, saying other migrants had fuel burns and had been at sea for days.

The vessel's crew of 10 had earlier rescued another 89 people from a rubber boat on Thursday, and said European rescue agencies had so far ignored its distress calls.

The rescue boat -- named after 19th-century French anarchist Louise Michel -- was around 90 kilometres southeast of the Italian island of Lampedusa early on Saturday, according to the global ship tracking website Marine Traffic.

Thousands of people are thought to have died attempting to make the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to flee conflict, repression and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Banksy's decision to fund the high-speed boat follows a body of work by the artist that has levelled scathing judgements on Europe's halting response to the migrant crisis.

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