Banksy’s migrant rescue ship seized by the Italian Coast Guard in Lampedusa

MILAN (Reuters) – A rescue ship funded by British street artist Banksy was detained on Sunday in Lampedusa after the Italian coast guard said the boat had disobeyed instructions to turn to Sicily after carrying out a rescue of migrants.

The Coast Guard said it had ordered the MV Louise Michel to dock in Trapani, Sicily, after it conducted an initial rescue operation in the Libyan search and rescue area. Instead, the ship went to the aid of the migrants on board three other boats in Malta’s search and rescue area.

The Coast Guard added that it was already on its way to assist the other three boats at the time.

The coast guard said it had ordered the Louise Michele to dock under a new law passed in Italy this year that provides a code of conduct for ships of migrant charitable organizations.

The 30-meter-tall, pink and white Louise Michel, named after a French feminist anarchist, finally docked in Lampedusa late on Saturday evening with 178 migrants on board.

The Coast Guard said it wanted to prevent the ship from taking too many people on board, endangering their safety. The local authorities in Lampedusa said their reception facilities are now full.

The Coast Guard said it had coordinated 58 boat rescues in the past 48 hours, helping more than 3,300 people.

The NGO Louise Michel said on its Twitter account that it had been informed that its ship was being detained for violating new Italian legislation and that it was ready to fight the decision.

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“We know about dozens of boats in distress in front of the island at this very moment, but we are forbidden to help. This is unacceptable!” He Said.

In the latest in a series of fatal accidents in recent days, at least 29 migrants died when their boats sank off the coast of Tunisia while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, the Tunisian coast guard said on Sunday.

Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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