Migrants from Banksy boat ‘refused safe port’ in Mediterranean

Migrants transferred from a Banksy-funded boat have joined hundreds on another vessel waiting in the Mediterranean as Italy and Malta refuses to let it dock, according to activists.

About 150 people rescued this week by the MV Louise Michel, an ex-French navy vessel bought by the elusive artist Banksy, were transferred to the Sea Watch 4 on Saturday after the ship became so overloaded it could not safely move.

Sea Watch 4, run by migrant rescue charity Sea Watch International, said it now has 353 people on board and is waiting for a safe port.

The charity tweeted on Sunday: “Our guests have been at sea for days, with the MSF Sea team currently treating many patients for dehydration, traumatic injuries, hypothermia and fuel burns.

“We need a safe port now!”

A migrant being transferred from the Louise Michel to Sea Watch 4
‘This situation cannot go on’: Migrants from Banksy boat stranded

It said neither Malta nor Italy, the closest European countries, are allowing them to dock and disembark in their ports.

A blue dinghy with 50 people in was also spotted near Malta on Saturday, Sea Watch said, and they have been given life jackets by the Maltese Armed Forces, but have not been rescued.

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Chris Grodotzki, media coordinator on the Sea Watch 4, told Sky News that conditions on the boat were “quite cramped”.

“People are all over the decks,” he said.

“We have seen serious cases of sea sickness, of dehydration, of fuel burns – caused by the mixture of fuel and salt water in the boats.”

Mr Grodotzki said medics had managed to “stabilise” people on board who are unwell, but he added: “This is not a situation that can go on for long.

“For sure we will need a safe port as soon as possible.”

He said some people had been rescued as far back as 22 August and remained on board.

“The people rescued from Louise Michel yesterday had also been at sea for quite a long time without any intervention from the European authorities,” Mr Grodotzki said.

“The Maltese, whose responsibility area they were stranded in, just did not respond to the distress call.”

The Sea Watch 4 is currently between Malta and Italy which are the “closest safe ports”, Mr Grodotzki said.

He added: “By the law of the sea, it is meant that the closest safe ports are the ports where the people rescued at sea need to be disembarked.

“Since Malta… are ignoring every law of the sea, every humanitarian law, it will most likely be Italy to jump in there.

Banksy funds boat to rescue migrants in Mediterranean
Banksy funds Med migrant rescue ship

“They have shown in the last days that they are willing and able to assist people in distress at sea.”

A post on MV Louise Michel’s Twitter said the obligation to rescue at sea is set in international maritime law.

“This obligation applies to every person in danger at sea – regardless of nationality, reason for flight or legal status,” it said.

“Every seafarer knows that by heart. EU, you don’t respect your own laws.”

A total of 49 migrants were rescued by the Italian coast guard on Saturday from the MV Louise Michel, but they would not take the rest, according to the crew of the pink Banksy boat.

The migrants were taken to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa where residents on Sunday protested and the mayor promised to call a protest strike over the number of migrants being brought there.

49 migrants were rescued by the Italian coast guard and taken to Lampedusa
Image: 49 migrants were rescued by the Italian coast guard and taken to Lampedusa

A migrant centre on the island meant for fewer than 200 people is now crammed with about 1,200 migrants after several new arrivals.

Lampedusa Mayor Toto’ Martello expressed astonishment that a fishing boat carrying 450 migrants managed to get within a few kilometres of the island before being noticed by military vessels or aircraft, including from the European Frontex mission which is supposed to be fighting human trafficking in the central Mediterranean.

The Italian coast guard escorted the fishing vessel to port on Saturday night, where Lampedusa residents staged a protest, with some lying down, yelling “Enough!”.

Residents on Lampedusa protested against the high numbers of migrants coming onto their island
Image: Residents on Lampedusa protested against the high numbers of migrants coming onto their island
A fishing boat with 450 migrants arrived on Lampedusa on Saturday night
Image: A fishing boat with 450 migrants arrived on Lampedusa on Saturday night

Mr Martello said he would call a strike this week with storekeepers shuttering shops for a day on the island, which lives off tourism and fishing.

The strike is aimed “against a government which doesn’t have a strategy” to deal with migrants, he said.

A Catholic parish on the island has stepped in to find housing for the latest several hundred arrivals, which also included several small boats with migrants that set out apparently from Tunisia and reached the island without needing rescue.



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