The Italian government stepped in Saturday to help an overloaded, stranded migrant rescue boat, funded by the British street artist Banksy, in the Mediterranean Ocean.
The Italian coast guard took on 49 of the most vulnerable passengers, including 32 women and 13 children, from the ship’s 219 migrants, according to a report by Reuters.
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The Louise Michel, named after a French feminist, started operating last week, most recently picking people up from just off the coast of Libya.
The Banksy-backed vessel conducts rescue missions in and around the Mediterranean, assisting migrants who have become stranded at sea while fleeing various countries in Africa.
The German flagged boat, which is run by a crew of 10 European activists with experience in search and rescue, released a series of tweets Saturday saying the vessel was stuck and requested assistance from authorities in Malta, Germany and Italy.
“#LouiseMichel is unable to move, she is no longer the master of her manoeuver, due to her overcrowded deck and a liferaft deployed at her side, but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance,” the ship’s crew tweeted Saturday. “The responsible authorities remain unresponsive.”
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The ship later said on Twitter that the calls were not made in “distress,” but that life rafts were needed to allow for more room on the vessel while it awaited assistance.
Another sea rescuing ship, Sea Watch 4t, picked up the remaining passengers on the Louise Michel and is awaiting assistance from European nations.
Sea rescuing missions are an attempt by activists to pressure the European Union to address the dangerous conditions migrants face as they flee nations like Libya, which has been deemed a humanitarian crisis by the United Nations Refugee Agency due to militant fighting, coupled by the coronavirus.
The International Organization for Migration and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees released a joint statement Saturday commending the EU’s lack of solution of the migrant crisis.
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“The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be penalized or stigmatized, especially in the absence of dedicated State-led efforts,” the statement read.
“The lack of agreement on a regional disembarkation mechanism, long called for by IOM and UNHCR, is not an excuse to deny vulnerable people a port of safety and the assistance they need, as required under international law.”