The British street artist Banksy has financed and decorated a bright pink rescue boat to help save the lives of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.
The ship, which has been named “Louise Michel” after a French anarchist, is a former French navy vessel that Banksy purchased using proceeds from his artwork, according to the new search and rescue mission.
On its website, the Louise Michel project said it aims to “uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice.”
The artist decorated it with a fire extinguisher and created an image of a girl in a life jacket reaching out to a heart-shaped lifebelt.
The artwork is similar in style to Banksy’s famous “Girl with Baloon” stencil murals.
The 30-meter long vessel, which was been customized to perform search and rescue, can travel at 28 knots and is “as agile as she is pink,” the rescuers said on its website.
The boat first set sail on August 18 with 10-person crew and helped rescue 89 people on Thursday in its first mission, according to a Louise Michel spokesperson.
The vessel is still in the Mediterranean Sea, the spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Friday, and looking to find a port of safety for those rescued, or to transfer them to a European coastguard ship.
According to the organization’s Twitter page, the rescued refugees traveled from Libya and are “safe onboard.”
“After dealing with dehydration, fuel burns and injuries from the torture they suffered in Libya, they have a moment of respite,” the organization said in a tweet on Friday.
Through his provocative artwork Banksy often explores social issues such as war, political corruption and the refugee crisis.
Among the grotesque attractions were two remote control refugee boats, which Banksy later sold with the proceeds donated to refugee support services.
In 2015 two Banksy murals appeared in Calais, France. The first showed late Apple founder Steve Jobs – the son of a Syrian migrant – carrying a sack over his shoulder.
The second showed showed refugees on a boat attempting to flag down a luxury yacht.
Last year he created a mural of a young child refugee in a life jacket holding a bright pink flare in Venice.
Europe’s migrant crisis has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, with twice as many people attempted the dangerous journey to the UK via boat since lockdown than during the year 2019, according to analysis by PA Media.
This is because the Covid-19 pandemic has left countries such as Tunisia facing serious economic hardship and unemployment, while others, including Libya, are dealing with the effects of war.
CNN’s Masuma Ahuja, Tara John and Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.