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Photo Credit: Twitter/ @seawatch_intl
Photo Credit: Twitter/ @seawatch_intl
Photo Credit: Twitter/ @seawatch_intl
Photo Credit: Twitter/ @seawatch_intl
World News

German Christian organisation intervenes after 200 people stranded on Banksy-funded refugee rescue boat

by Tola Mbakwe

Scores of people taken in by a Banksy-funded refugee rescue boat in the Mediterranean have been transferred to another humanitarian ship provided by a German Christian charity, while dozens were helped by the Italian Coastguard.

At one stage there were 219 people on board the Louise Michel boat, including 33 in a life raft deployed by its side and one corpse in a body bag, someone involved in the mission said.

The vessel - launched under its new humanitarian guise last week - was left stranded off the coast of Malta for around 12 hours into Saturday, according to tweets posted from the ship's account.

Those associated with the vessel, which features a Banksy painting depicting a young girl holding on to a heart-shaped safety float and had a crew of 10, said it could not safely move because of an overcrowded deck.

A series of calls for help to various authorities were made over the course of almost four hours on Friday evening, but either went unanswered or organisers were told there was no assistance available, a post on the Twitter account said.

But the Italian Coastguard stepped in to evacuate 49 of the "most vulnerable" on board on Saturday afternoon as well as the body of a male who died before the Louise Michel could reach a rubber boat a day earlier, a tweet from the ship organisers' account said.

Another humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 4 - a joint project between United4Rescue, Sea-Watch, and Doctors without Borders - took all the remaining people on board.

According to Sea-Watch's website, the initiative for the alliance, which has set itself the task of supporting civilian sea rescue organisations, was started by the the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and is supported by more than 500 organisations. 

The organisation said the purpose of the ship is to patrol in front of the Libyan 30 nautical mile zone and actively search for boats in distress.

During a ceremony celebrating the purchase of the ship in February, chairman of the EKD Council Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said: "One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion. This ship has to be out there, because European states do not intend, nor do they manage, to rescue people in the Mediterranean."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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