This story is still evolving, so bear with us while we attempt to catch you up, but Banksy has funded and deployed a 31m rescue boat to aid in the rescue and recovery of North African refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. Named after the French feminine anarchist Louise Michel, the boat has been transporting refugees to European coastguard vessels and safe seaports since its initial departure on August 18th. After successfully rescuing 89 people, as of August 28th the ship found itself stranded at sea and unable to control its own movement. After responding to a mayday alert, the Louise Michel attempted to onboard 130+ people with a 10 person crew, hitting capacity and needing additional assistance. As of 3pm BST on August 29th they had not received it. By 4.30pm BST The Italian Coastguard had come to take the 49 most vulnerable on the ship, leaving the Louise Michel with a remaining 201 non-crew passenger. It wasn’t until around midnight that all 350 people transferred onto Sea Watch 4, an international ship calling for European Ports to open and assign the passengers a Safe Place to off-board.
The Louise Michel’s status is actively being updated on Twitter with several calls to the EU authorities going unmet in the last 48 hours. What started out as an uplifting clip turned into a precarious situation for the crew and those on board in what feels like a heartbreaking embodiment of an overwhelming and under-resourced need. While the Louise Michel was “never a distress case” (according to their Twitter), they were only able to do so much without help from outside authorities. The increasing attention to and live-updates of the Louise Michel have absolutely put pressure on the EU’s relevant bodies to respond to these specific cases, and has resulted in the safe transfer of over 400 refugees. The account’s active dissemination of Maritime Law furthers an education of the EU’s legal responsibilities to the families and individuals making this dangerous journey, an effort that looks to have a real impact on the lives of many.