Last year, we were able to support a group of activists in deploying the civilian rescue ship MV Louise Michel on life-saving mission in the Mediterranean. Earlier this year, they were able to rescue 93 people from distress at sea during a mission. A crew member of the MV Louise Michel reports on the project:
“In 2019, the artist Banksy donated money to us – that’s a small group of activists – to buy a ship. The criminalisation of sea rescuers, the seizure of the civilian rescue ship Iuventa and the blockade of numerous other ships in the civilian fleet prompted him to do so. Eventually, we bought a former French naval vessel and converted it. The MV Louise Michel was born.
The Louise Michel is different from most ships in the civil fleet. The top speed of the 30-metre long speedboat is 28 knots. This makes it more than twice as fast as the large civilian rescue vessels. It is through close cooperation with other civilian actors such as Sea-Watch that its strengths can be used to the best possible advantage for the civil fleet. Although the MV’s small deck cannot accommodate a large number of people for longer, thanks to its speed the ship can reach sea emergencies very quickly, stabilise the situation and provide first aid. It thus saves valuable time that can decide between life and death.
During their first missions in the summer of 2020, the crews of the Louise Michel as well as the Sea-Watch 4 demonstrated this in practice. In several missions, the Louise Michel had brought hundreds of people to safety in life rafts and on board before the Sea-Watch 4 came to her rescue and took all people on board. All the people rescued in this operation were later able to disembark safely in Sicily.
After reconstruction work was carried out, the MV Louise Michel was able to set off again on a mission to the central Mediterranean at the end of December 2021. During two rescue missions, 93 people were rescued and then safely brought ashore on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Unfortunately, during our mission we also had to witness how a ship of the so-called Libyan coast guard brutally pulled people from an overcrowded rubber dinghy back to Libya. The coast guards did not hesitate to shoot at people who had jumped into the water to escape.
In addition to being another rescue ship at Europe’s deadly sea border, the Louise Michel stands for more than that. Named after the French feminist and anarchist Louise Michel, we want to draw attention to the fact that different forms of oppressions and injustices are intertwined. Racist border politics, sexist structures and a capitalist logic of exploitation cannot be seen separately. We have to bundle these struggles and resist on all levels! That is why we stand in solidarity with all movements worldwide that also stand up for this conviction: For a world without patriarchy, without capitalist constraints and with unrestricted freedom of movement for all!”