Italy impounds Banksy-financed refugee rescue ship
Italian authorities have detained a refugee rescue ship run by German charity Louise Michel, the organisation said on 26 March. Italy’s coastguard confirmed it had seized and impounded the vessel at Lampedusa. Louise Michel was carrying out life-saving rescues of people from the Mediterranean at the time.
Rescue ship defies killer law
The Canary previously reported that the MV Louise Michel was bought “with the proceeds of some of Banksy’s works”. Furthermore, Banksy painted the vessel’s distinctive pink hull. Its website said the charity chose the name for historical French anarchist Louise Michel, and embodies principles of “feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism”. And its Twitter account said the Italian state had blocked the vessel on 26 March after it had recovered 180 people through four rescue operations.
Italy’s far-right government has vowed to curb the number of refugees landing the country. To do this, it passed a controversial law forcing charity ships to perform just one rescue mission at a time. The ship then must return to a port designated by the authorities before embarking on another rescue. This increases the risk of people drowning.
The Italian coastguard said it had ordered the MV Louise Michel to dock in the port of Trapani after conducting a rescue operation in Libyan waters:
but had disobeyed that order and headed out to three other migrant boats.
The charity said on Twitter that, as a result, the authorities have detained its vessel for 20 days. It then added:
The only aim of the decree law is the blockage of Rescue ships, willingly taking into account the deaths of people on the move.
World’s most perilous crossing
Since taking office in October 2022, prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s government has introduced a series of measures aimed at stopping the rescue of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. It is considered the world’s most perilous crossing. Meloni’s government accuses charity rescue ships of encouraging migrants and of helping people-traffickers. However, life-saving vessels only pick up a small percentage of the people seeking to reach the EU via Italy’s shores.
Critics of Italy’s new law on charity ships say it contradicts “international maritime, human rights and European law”, and increases the risk of deaths at sea. Many of those attempting the crossing – including families fleeing conflict, persecution or abject poverty – do so on flimsy, overcrowded boats.
The International Maritime Organisation, a UN body, estimated that 1,417 people disappeared in the Mediterranean in 2022.
Additional reporting via Agence France-Presse
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/DerPetzi, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license, resized to 770*403
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