LONDON — Street artist Banksy has released a video with a strong political message explaining why he became involved in a search-and-rescue ship helping migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Like most people who make it in the art world, I bought a yacht to cruise the Med,” the artist wrote in captions accompanying the video, which was posted to his Instagram account Saturday. “It’s a French Navy vessel we converted into a lifeboat.”
“Because EU authorities deliberately ignore distress calls from ’non-Europeans’,” the subversive artist continued. “All Black Lives Matter.”
The video featured footage of migrants at sea and clips of the vessel, called the MV Louise Michel, which is painted bright pink and features a mural depicting a young girl holding on to a heart-shaped safety float.
The Louise Michel crew has said it is sponsored by Banksy, whose real name remains a mystery. Details of his financial involvement were not available.
The crew has in recent days reported picking up several groups of migrants in the central Mediterranean in what appeared to be its maiden rescue voyage.
In a series of tweets over the past few days, the ship’s crew has strongly criticized the European Union over its migration policy. It said it contacted both Italian and Maltese coast guards seeking a port to disembark migrants, but received no response.
The tone of the tweets has grown more urgent in the past 24 hours after the crew reported that the numbers of migrants on board were getting too high, that the ship was essentially stranded and that the crew was seeking a port to disembark the passengers. It reported women and children were among the dozens on board and in an adjacent dinghy, as well as the corpse of a migrant.
“We need immediate assistance,” the crew tweeted via its @MVLouiseMichel handle on Saturday. “We are safeguarding 219 people with a crew of 10. Act #EU now!”
In an email Saturday, the crew said the vessel was now heading to Sicily to seek shelter for the migrants.
Another humanitarian aid group ship, the Mare Jonio, said Saturday it was leaving the Sicilian port of Augusta to come to the Louise Michel’s aid. The Mare Jonio, which has been active in the Mediterranean for years, said it was moving up its scheduled departure by 48 hours to help the Louise Michel out.
Nicole Winfield contributed from Rome.
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Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press