A lifeboat funded by street performer Banksy and hauling hundreds of migrants was in danger of capsizing in the Mediterranean last night.
In a series of Mayday warnings, MV Louise Michel, who got into trouble for the first time on Friday, said she could not move because of an overcrowded deck.
Italian coast guards reached the ship yesterday – which lies in waters between Malta and the island of Lampedusa – but were able to rescue only 49 of the most vulnerable passengers, including 13 children.
Now 160 of the 209 migrants remain on board with ten crew members.
Italian coast guards reached the ship yesterday but were only able to rescue 49 of the most vulnerable passengers, including 13 children
The MV Louise Micheal, named after an anarchist, lies in the waters between Malta and the island of Lampedusa
Crew members of the civilian sea rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on inflatable boats help migrants disembark from the rescue ship
An Italian Coast Guard boat prepares to dock in port before disembarking a group of Libyan migrants rescued by the Louis Michel near the Lampedusa coast
Those who stayed on board complained of dehydration prayed that another lifeboat dispatched from the Sicilian port of Augusta, 167 miles away, would reach them in time.
But the Louise Michel was dangerously overloaded last night and is said to "lose her balance".
The 100-foot former French naval ship, named after an anarchist, has a maximum capacity of 120.
"We repeat, #LouiseMichel cannot move safely and no one comes to our aid," said a tweet sent by the ship.
"The rescued people have experienced extreme trauma. It is time they were taken to a #PlaceOfSafety." We need immediate help. "
Migration activists criticized Banksy for launching a rescue ship in the Mediterranean, saying it would only encourage people smugglers to put more migrants on small boats and send them to Europe.
The boat features some Banksy trademarks, including a girl in a life jacket with a heart-shaped safety buoy.
So far this year 550 migrants have died trying to cross the 300-mile stretch between Libya and the coasts of Italy and Malta.
The Louise Michel's passengers were mostly African men who were believed to have departed from the Libyan coast in weak dinghies – but also women and children.
One of the dinghies that carried the migrants also had a body that was taken on board and then placed on a liferaft that was covered by a white sheet. The life raft was then attached to the Louise Michel and towed along.
Last night Lea Reisner, Louise Michel's operations manager, said: “People have been sitting in a mixture of salt water and fuel for days. It is night and the European states are not doing their job.
They reject responsibility as we try to keep everyone alive. "
Rescued migrants arrive after being taken to the commercial port of Lampedusa
Pictured: migrants are being reloaded in the commercial port of Lampedusa. Official data shows that more than 19,500 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy or Malta this year
Pictured: a group of migrants in protective clothing waiting to be taken from the port to Lampedusa by minibus after disembarking from the ship
Men of various African nationalities wait to be assisted by crew members of the rescue ships Louise Michel and Astral after being drifting on an overcrowded rubber boat
A Banksy-funded refugee lifeboat has been stranded in the Mediterranean with a dead migrant on board after it was too crowded to sail safely
In a tweet on a video of migrants on the ship, the operators said yesterday: “You are survivors, you are turning your back on the EU. After escaping indescribable horror and inhumanity, they need a place of safety. "
But Alp Mehmet, chairman of the Migration Watch campaign group, said: “Although Banksy believes he is helping, his actions are only intended to encourage this nasty migrant trade.
"These people only care about making money and benefiting from the misery of others."
"By launching this search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, traffickers can convince more migrants to attempt the dangerous crossing."
45 people – including five children – died on Wednesday when the engine of their boat exploded off the coast of Libya.
Official data shows that more than 19,500 migrants crossed the Mediterranean from Africa to Italy or Malta this year.
An injured migrant is brought to Lampedusa
Although Banksy did not say how much he paid for the ship, it is believed that the Louise Michel cost £ 860,000. Last night, the United Nations also made a splash by saying it was concerned about the lack of dedicated EU-led search and rescue efforts.
In a statement, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees said: "The humanitarian need to save lives should not be punished or stigmatized, especially if no special government effort is made."
The Louise Michel took off from the Spanish port of Burriana near Valencia on August 18th under secrecy. Banksy was silent about the Mediterranean crisis last night, but previously posted a video on his Instagram page telling his 10 million followers, "Like most people who make it in the art world, I bought a yacht to to cross the Mediterranean. It is a French naval ship that we converted into a lifeboat because the EU authorities deliberately ignore emergency calls from non-Europeans. "
Banksy, who is hiding his true identity, is said to have asked a controversial German sea pilot and human rights activist named Pia Klemp for help. Your company Sea-Watch provided the purely vegan ten-person crew for the ship that sailed under the German flag.
Sea-Watch rescued more than 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean last year, which angered the Italian government. The Italian authorities, in their absence, accused Ms Klemp of assisting illegal immigration.
According to tweets from the ship's account, there are more than 200 people on board the Louise Michel and a body
There are more than 200 people on board the Louise Michel, including 10 crew members. Dozens of migrants suffer from burns and dehydration after days at sea
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