Photographs: Ruben Neugebauer / The Guardian
The Guardian published the exclusive story on 27 August:
The British street artist Banksy has financed a boat to rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from north Africa, the Guardian can reveal. The vessel, named Louise Michel after a French feminist anarchist, set off in secrecy on 18 August from the Spanish seaport of Burriana, near Valencia, and is now in the central Mediterranean where on Thursday it rescued 89 people in distress, including 14 women and four children. It is now looking for a safe seaport to disembark the passengers or to transfer them to a European coastguard vessel.
Banksy’s involvement in the rescue mission goes back to September 2019 when he sent an email to Pia Klemp, the former captain of several NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people over recent years.
“Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”
Klemp, who initially thought it was a joke, believes she was chosen by Banksy due to her political stance. “I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she told the Guardian.
She has made clear that Banksy’s involvement in the operations is limited to providing financial support. “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”
With a top speed of 27 knots, the Louise Michel would be able to “hopefully outrun the so-called Libyan coastguard before they get to boats with refugees and migrants and pull them back to the detention camps in Libya”, said Klemp.