The M.V. Louise Michel, a rescue ship bought with the proceeds of a Banksy art sale, is being detained by Italian authorities on Lampedusa. The ship broke new rules in assisting in another rescue instead of heading straight to its assigned port.
The humanitarian rescue ship Louise Michel was detained in the port of Lampedusa on Sunday. The reason is alleged breaches of new rules for NGO ships performing search and rescue in the central Mediterranean.
“We know of dozens of boats in distress right in front of the island at this very moment, yet we are being prevented from assisting. This is unacceptable!” the crew said in a tweet.
180 rescued people disembarked on Lampedusa. The Louise Michel had been instructed to head to Trapani after performing a first rescue operation in Libyan waters on Saturday, according to an Italian Coast Guard press release issued Sunday afternoon.
However, rather than proceeding directly to the assigned port, the ship reportedly headed towards three more boats in distress in Maltese waters. The Coast Guard were already in attendance at the scene.
The Louise Michel later disembarked a total of180 rescued people in Lampedusa.
“With the situation at sea, holding a rescue ship in port while women, men and children risk dying is absurd: this is not about slogans, but about human lives that can and should be saved,” Luca Casarini, chief of mission of Mediterranea Saving Human, another SAR NGO, told ANSA.
About the Louise Michel
The MV Louise Michel is a former French Navy boat customised to perform search and rescue. She was bought with proceeds from the sale of Banksy artwork – who then decorated her with a fire extinguisher.
She is operated and crewed by a team of activist rescue professionals drawn from across Europe. Named after the French anarchist Louise Michel, she aims to combine lifeguarding with the principles of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism. She runs on a flat hierarchy and a vegan diet.
Little wonder this rescue ship is already running up against the Italian government.