Renowned street artist Banksy admitted this weekend that he has been sponsoring a humanitarian boat that has been rescuing hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
The bright pink nonprofit search-and-rescue ship MV Louise Michel was painted by the internationally famous incognito artist, who released a video Saturday on Instagram about financially backing the rescue operation.
“Like most people who make it in the art world, I bought a yacht to cruise the Med,” he wrote in captions accompanying the video. “It’s a French Navy vessel we converted into a lifeboat because EU authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from non-Europeans.”
The subversive artist continued: “All Black Lives Matter.”
The Louise Michel has been rescuing groups of migrants, which included women, children and the body of one person, in the central Mediterranean during its reported maiden rescue voyage.
The ship’s crew begged for assistance and a safe port earlier Saturday, saying that it had rescued so many people that it could no longer safely navigate. The Italian coast guard said it sent a vessel to take 49 of the most vulnerable people off the ship to bring them to safety.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization of Migration said more than 200 rescued refugees and migrants needed to immediately get off the Louise Michel, which they said was “currently far beyond its safe carrying capacity.”
The plea from UNHCR and IOM also mentioned hundreds of migrants on two other charity ships in urgent need of finding safe harbor. The agencies said 27 migrants who left from Libya, including a pregnant woman and children, have been stranded on the commercial tanker Maersk Etienne “for an unacceptable three-week period” since their rescue on Aug. 5.
A further 200 rescued people on the SeaWatch4, which has waited for days to be allowed to enter a port, also needed urgent help, the agencies added.
“The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be penalized or stigmatized, especially in the absence of dedicated state-led efforts,” the agencies said.
The agencies raised concerns about the lack of dedicated European Union-led search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean, and the lack of action among European nations to support Italy and Malta, which are bearing the brunt of migrants arriving by sea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.