Banksy-funded rescue boat in crisis as it shelters 200 people

Above, the German-flagged boat Louise Michel off the coast of Libya during a rescue mission on August 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 August 2020

Banksy-funded rescue boat in crisis as it shelters 200 people

  • Activists urge European authorities to rescue more than 130 people being aided by the ship
  • Over 500 refugees, migrants known to have drowned in Mediterranean so far this year, though real figure likely far higher

LONDON: The rescue boat funded by UK street artist Banksy is close to declaring a “state of emergency” as it safeguards over 200 people off Libya’s coast, while European authorities allegedly ignore their pleas for help.

On Thursday, the ship rescued 89 people, including 14 women and four children, in the central Mediterranean.

The ship then received a mayday call from an aircraft that monitors migrant boats in danger in the Mediterranean, which said it had located a dinghy that was not moving and was taking on water.

A ship spokesman said the “Louise Michel proceeded at full speed” in response to the call, and “handed out life vests to 130 people to secure the situation.”

The dinghy, located in the Maltese search and rescue zone, had a dead body on board and a number of injured passengers. It was dangerously overcrowded and taking on water.

The Louise Michel, with a maximum capacity of 120 people, is now safeguarding the 130 passengers on board the distressed dinghy, in addition to the 89 migrants already on board from its previous rescue operation.

Maltese and Italian authorities have been alerted to the dire conditions on the dinghy, but activists said neither have responded to the situation.

Activists on the Banksy-funded ship said the people had been left alone in a European search and rescue zone, and implored authorities to respond. “Don’t let it become a body count. Do your job. Rescue them,” they said.

Lea Reisner, head of operations for the Louise Michel, said European authorities are flaunting their duty toward migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean.

“They deny responsibility while we are trying to keep everyone alive … We need immediate assistance,” she added.

So far in 2020, more than 500 migrants and refugees are known to have died trying to make the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe, though the real number of deaths is estimated to be far higher.


US Supreme Court backs religious groups over New York virus curbs

Updated 32 min 19 sec ago

US Supreme Court backs religious groups over New York virus curbs

  • The court on a 5-4 vote granted requests made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations

The US Supreme Court late on Wednesday backed Christian and Jewish houses of worship challenging New York state’s latest restrictions in novel coronavirus hot spots.
The court on a 5-4 vote granted requests made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and two Orthodox Jewish congregations.
The order marked one of the first consequential actions on the court of President Donald Trump’s new appointee, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast a deciding vote in favor of the religious groups. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with the court’s three liberals.
An Oct. 6 decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down non-essential businesses in targeted areas where infections have spiked, including some Brooklyn neighborhoods. It limited gatherings at religious institutions to 10 people in some areas and 25 in others.
The houses of worship say that the limits violated religious freedoms protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment, and that their facilities were singled out for more stringent restrictions than essential businesses, such as food stores. The Orthodox congregations Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills and Agudath Israel of Madison, as well as nationwide Orthodox Jewish group Agudath Israel of America.
A federal judge in Brooklyn rejected separate requests made by the religious groups on Oct. 9. The New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals declined emergency requests filed by both sets of challengers on Nov. 9.
In two previous cases this year, the court on 5-4 votes turned away similar requests by churches in Nevada and California.
Those votes occurred before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and saw her and her three liberal colleagues joined by Roberts in the majority.