Up to 70 migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean took refuge on an oil platform before being handed over to Tunisian authorities, energy giant Shell and a rescue charity said Tuesday (4 January).
Rescue ship Louise Michel said it had rescued 31 people from a drifting wooden boat in poor weather while “another 65-70 people have been holding out all night on the Shell oil platform” onto which they had climbed.
Shell in Tunisia confirmed that an unspecified number of migrants had reached its Miskar platform, located around 120 kilometres (75 miles) off the coast of Tunisia, at 8:00 pm Tunis time (1900 GMT) Monday.
“The migrants were assisted and provided with water, food and dry clothes,” the company said, adding that it had informed the Tunisian authorities.
It added: “The migrants were since safely transferred to the Tunisian Navy vessel on January 4, 2022 at around 2:00 pm Tunis time.”
The Louise Michel is a 30-metre former French navy vessel decorated by elusive British artist Banksy, one of its sponsors.
The British street artist #Banksy has financed a boat to rescue refugees attempting to reach Europe from North Africa.
The vessel, named “Louise Michel” set off in secrecy on 18 August from the Spanish seaport of Burriana, near Valencia. pic.twitter.com/W3RrtTyJje
— Brindille (@Brindille_) August 28, 2020
It is one of several rescue ships operating in the Mediterranean, as tens of thousands of migrants try to reach Europe each year, often in leaky and overcrowded boats.
It is not unusual for some of those stranded to seek refuge on offshore oil platforms, although operators warn it can be dangerous.
More than 115,000 people arrived by sea in Italy, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Malta last year, while around 1,800 died or went missing, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).