The MV Louise Michel is a former French Navy boat we’ve customized to perform search and rescue. Measuring 30 meters in length and capable of up to 28 knots, she was bought with proceeds from the sale of Banksy artwork - who then decorated her with a fire extinguisher. She is operated and crewed by a team of activist rescue professionals drawn from across Europe. Named after the French anarchist Louise Michel, she aims to combine lifeguarding with the principles of feminism, anti-racism and anti-fascism. She runs on a flat hierarchy and a vegan diet.
It might seem incredible there is a need for a private emergency vessel in one of Europe’s busiest waterways, but there is. In response to people trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of safety, European states stopped reacting properly to distress calls from people on the move, leaving them to drift at sea and collaborating with armed forces to illegally prevent them from crossing. Europe’s Mediterranean border is the world’s deadliest.
The MV Louise Michel and our team of activists and volunteers actively resist the discriminatory power structures of nationalism, racism, patriarchy and capitalism. The MV Louise Michel intends to uphold maritime law by rescuing anyone in peril without prejudice. In solidarity with people on the move, we are working against any policy that willingly lets people drown at sea. We are fighting for freedom of movement for everyone, because as Louise Michel said, “Something besides charity is needed in order to provide bread for everyone.” Humanitarian aid alone is not the answer.
The people who die at sea are not unlucky casualties of the elements. This situation is not a natural disaster. It is created by political decisions and a failure of humanity and solidarity. It cannot be solved by lifeboats. If we want to sustainably stop the drowning, we have to stop forcing people onto these boats. So, if you want to contribute:
How societies manage migration is a complex issue that involves us all. But it should never be one that casually dispenses the death penalty.