Banksy boat rescues hundreds of migrants

Saving lives: The boat has been named the Louise Michael after a 19th-century French feminist © Getty

Are rescue boats a good idea? British artist Banksy has paid for a boat to help migrants in the Mediterranean. It is saving lives – but some people say it could make things worse.

What’s happening

A huge white boat floats in the middle of the sea. It is splattered with bright pink paint. On its side is a famous picture of a girl with wind in her hair.

It is bright and colourful, but it has a serious mission. This boat is labelled with the word, “rescue”. It is here to save lives.

Find out more

In August, Captain Pia Klemp received an email. It was from the artist Banksy. He told her he had some money that he wanted to spend on something useful.

“Could you use it to buy a new boat or something?” the mysterious artist asked.

So she did. Klemp is a German sea captain and activist. She rescues refugees crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

So far this year, 20,000 migrants have made the journey, but their boats are overcrowded and unsafe. Sadly, more than 550 people have died since January.

Critics say that private rescue boats like Banksy’s encourage more people to cross the sea in dangerous boats.

Banksy argues that his boat is needed because officials in Europe refuse to take in refugees in need.

Are rescue boats a good idea?

Some say…

Not really. They are well meaning, but they make the problem worse. They give false hope to migrants and encourage more people to make dangerous journeys. Banksy’s boat has saved 350 people. But now it is overcrowded, too. It cannot move and people are in danger once again. The best thing for migrants to do is apply to come to Europe legally.

Others think…

They are the only chance some people have. Governments in Europe do not accept many migrants. Desperate migrants are left with no choice. Rescue boats like this one are safer than the blow-up dinghies some of them have to travel on. The boats keep people safe and give them medical help. They are not ideal, but they are necessary.

You Decide

  1. Rescue boats are illegal. Would you risk going to prison to help people?


  1. Banksy’s picture, The Girl with the Balloon, is one of his most famous. There are lots of different variations – like the one on the side of the boat. Draw your own version.

Some People Say...

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Warsan Shire, British poet

What do you think?

Word Watch

A person who fights stongly for a cause they believe in. Greta Thunberg is a climate activist.
People who are forced to leave their home or country to seek safety or protection. They are often fleeing war or persecution.
This sea that empties into the Atlantic is almost completely surrounded by land: the African continent is at its south shore, Europe is at its north.
People who hold a powerful position, especially in a government .
False hope
Hoping that something might be true but most likely isn’t Migrants who know there is a rescue boat might think it will make the journey safer. This is not always true.
Many refugees pay smugglers to help them leave their countries. This is against the law, making it hard for them to be recognised as refugees in European countries when they arrive.
A small boat usually used as a lifeboat or for short trips in shallow water. They shouldn’t be used for long sea voyages, but refugees are often given no choice.

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