The MV Louise Michel just refueled after the first successful rescue operations last week and is now going to a standby position, fully ready to rescue. #DefendSolidarity #LouiseMichel pic.twitter.com/64UGtZoHlC
— LouiseMichel (@MVLouiseMichel) August 25, 2020
British street artist Banksy is well-known for his use of public art to support social causes. The plight of refugees is particularly close to his heart and he recently put his money behind a boat that rescues African refugees stuck at sea as they try to reach Europe. The Louise Michel is a former French navy boat that's been customized for search and rescue. Painted pink, it also features a Banksy image of a girl holding a heart-shaped life vest.
Banksy first got involved in the project in 2019, when he sent an email to Pia Kemp. Kemp is a German activist who has captained many humanitarian ships and is currently facing up to 20 years in prison in Italy for rescuing 1,000 migrants from drowning in the Meditteranean.
For Kemp, the email came as a surprise and, initially, she thought it was a joke. The message read: “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.”
👏 #Banksy financed a search & rescue boat 👏
The #LouiseMichel‘s crew has already rescued 89 people in distress attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. 89!
— Colombe Cahen-Salvador (@ColombeCS) August 28, 2020
After the initial shock, a crew of activists set about getting the ship up and running, naming it after a French female anarchist. To avoid being intercepted by the authorities, the Louise Michel secretly set sail from the Spanish seaport of Burriana on August 18. Kemp is clear on the fact that Banksy acted purely as financial backing, and has no involvement in how the ship is run. That's up to the 10-person crew, which has already dove headlong into its work.
The ship has been keeping the public abreast of its activities via Twitter and in less than two weeks, they've already accomplished several rescue missions. This includes assisting a rubber boat with nearly 130 people aboard. After transferring them to a larger boat, those migrants are now waiting for a safe place to disembark.
For now, Louise Michel is back at sea on the lookout for other distress calls and waiting to take action when necessary. If you are interested in supporting the boat's mission, they are taking donations via a fundraising platform. You can also follow their Twitter and share their messages to create more awareness about the plight of migrants attempting to reach Europe.
Street artist Bansky has financed the Louise Michel, a search and rescue boat that picks up migrants in distress.
Yesterday morning, #LouiseMichel responded to a distress call from #Moonbird air reconnaissance plane.
89 people were rescued and brought on board Louise Michel. The survivors need a Place of Safety now.#SolidarityAndResistance pic.twitter.com/HWde3hYFqT
— LouiseMichel (@MVLouiseMichel) August 28, 2020