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    Banksy asylum boat passengers evacuated

    © Belga

    All passengers from the Louise Michel, the boat sponsored by street artist Banksy that became stranded off the coast of Italy, left the vessel on Saturday.

    The most vulnerable passengers, numbering 49, were evacuated by Italian coastguards, following distress calls sent out by the Louise Michel. The others were transferred to the Sea-Watch 4 humanitarian ship. Both vessels were east of Lampedusa, a small island south of Sicily, the Marinetraffic site reported on Saturday evening.

    The Italian coastguard service said in a statement that “given the danger of the situation, the coastguard sent a patrol boat to Lampedusa that took in 49 people deemed the most fragile, including 32 women, 13 children and four men.” The body of a deceased migrant was also evacuated to Lampedusa.

    The Louise Michel, which had only 10 crew members on board, had rescued a total of 219 migrants in two operations in a search and rescue zone off Malta. However, because of the expected deterioration of maritime weather conditions in the region, Malta contacted the Italian coastguards to carry out the operation.

    “The Italian coastguard took over 49 of the most vulnerable survivors! That’s great – and leaves us with the majority still waiting,” the crew of the Louise Michel commented on its Twitter account, calling for a safe place for all survivors.

    On Saturday evening the remaining passengers were transferred to the Sea-Watch 4, run by Sea-Watch, a German NGO, and Medecins sans frontières (MSF).

    Sea-Watch 4, which had already rescued 201 migrants in the Mediterranean, said on its Twitter account that it had taken in 150 additional persons from the Louise Michel and now had about 350 persons on board.

    MSF Sea said on Twitter that a medical evaluation of the migrants transferred to the Sea-Watch 4 on Saturday was under way. They were being treated for fuel burns, dehydration, hypothermia and traumatic injuries, it said.

    The Brussels Times