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Banksy-funded ship rescues 89 migrants from Mediterranean

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A rescue boat funded by British street artist Banksy pulled 89 migrants from the Mediterranean Sea this week, the operation announced Friday.

The boat, the Louise Michel, is splashed with bright pink paint and features reproductions of the artist's famous artworks, including one of a girl holding a heart-shaped life preserver. The vessel is named after a 19th century French feminist anarchist.

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"After dealing with dehydration, fuel burns and injuries from the torture they suffered in Libya, they have a moment of respite. Together with the crew, they are waiting for a Port of Safety," the ship's Twitter account said.

The Louise Michel's website says it was established because of European countries' policy not to respond to distress calls from non-Europeans.

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Banksy funded the ship -- a former French navy boat -- with the sale of his artwork.

"We onboard the Louise Michel believe we are all individuals, nationality should not make a difference to what rights one has and how we treat each other," the ship's mission statement reads. "We answer the SOS call of all those in distress, not just to save their souls -- but our own."

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More than 40,000 migrants have made the trek to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea since January, most from Tunisia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Syria and other Middle Eastern and North African countries. This year, 443 people have died attempting the trip, according to data from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

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This year is on track to have the fewest number of crossings since 2014, when the refugee crisis began in the region. Migration peaked in 2015, when 1.03 million people crossed the Mediterranean and 3,771 died. More than 5,000 died in 2016 despite about one-third the number of crossings from the previous year.

The Louise-Michel said the migrants it rescued were from Libya, where dueling governments are fighting for control.

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