Rescue boat funded by Banksy demands emergency help as it battles to save 130 migrants in sinking dinghy

‘People have sat in a mix of salt water and fuel for days. It is night and European states are not doing their job,’ says crew member

Colin Drury
Saturday 29 August 2020 20:32 BST
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Banksy rescue boat stranded at sea with calls for help ‘ignored’

A migrant rescue boat financed by Banksy has appealed for emergency help to save 130 people stranded on a sinking dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship cannot rescue all those crammed onto the broken-down vessel because it can only accommodate 120 passengers – and there are already 89 migrants aboard from a previous operation.

Crew have handed out life jackets and promised to stay with the rubber dinghy until more help arrives.

One person aboard is understood to have died and the dinghy is taking on water.

But, despite the raft being located in the Maltese search and rescue zone, crew on Banksy’s boat – named Louise Michel after a French anarchist – have accused European authorities of not reacting adequately to the emergency.

Lea Reisner, head of operations, said: “The people have sat in a mix of salt water and fuel for days. It is night and European states are not doing their f***ing job. They deny responsibility while we are trying to keep everyone alive.”

Reisner told the Guardian: “We need immediate assistance.”

The dinghy itself was first spotted by Moonbird, an aircraft that monitors migrant boats in danger in the central Mediterranean.

Neeske Beckmann, from the plane, said: “We were shocked when we saw the rubber boat – it was incredibly overcrowded and people onboard were trying to shuffle water out of the boat with their bare hands.

“We knew this was a grave emergency situation and decided to send out a mayday relay to all authorities and actors in the vicinity. Responsible European authorities failed to react to our distress call and only the Louise Michel responded to this serious distress case.”

The Louise Michel – painted bright pink and with Banksy art work on the side – set sail from Spain on 18 August with a crew of European activists. Before rescuing those 89 people on Thursday, the boat helped saved some 105 others in two previous operations.

More than 500 refugees and migrants are known to have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, although the real number is estimated to be considerably higher.

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