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Banksy’s migrant rescue boat stranded at sea with one dead on board after becoming overloaded with 219 people

A Banksy-funded migrant rescue boat is stranded in the Mediterranean Sea today with one person dead on board after it became overcrowded.

There are 219 people on the Louise Michel, but one person has died, according to tweets posted from the vessel’s account.

The former French navy boat – launched under its new guise last week, featuring a Banksy painting depicting a young girl holding on to a heart-shaped safety float – was off the coast of Malta this morning.

Those associated with the vessel said it cannot safely move because of an overcrowded deck.

One tweet said: “#LouiseMichel is unable to move, she is no longer the master of her manoeuvre, due to her overcrowded deck and a life raft deployed at her side, but above all due to Europe ignoring our emergency calls for immediate assistance. The responsible authorities remain unresponsive.”

Another read: “We repeat, #LouiseMichel is unable to safely move and nobody is coming to our aid. The people rescued have experienced extreme trauma, it’s time for them to be brought to a #PlaceOfSafety. We need immediate assistance.”

A summary of a series of calls for assistance to various authorities was also posted, but they got no answer or were told there was no assistance available, the account claimed.

The vessel has already carried out a number of rescue missions, according to its Twitter account, and on Friday evening said it had assisted another 130 people.

At that point it said it was “safeguarding 219 people with a crew of 10”. An earlier tweet said there was “already one dead person on the boat”.

The vessel was bought with the proceeds of some of Banksy’s works and is captained by a professional crew with a “flat hierarchy and a vegan diet”.

The Guardian reported that the British street artist first made contact with Pia Klemp, an experienced captain of a number of NGO boats, in September 2019 asking to help.

The project aims to help fill a void left by European authorities, who the organisers say are “leaving desperate people to drift helplessly at sea”.

The Louise Michel’s mission statement is “to uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice”.

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