Banksy defends inflatable migrant boat stunt at UK’s Glastonbury festival

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Banksy defended on Wednesday launching an inflatable migrant boat over a crowd at the Glastonbury festival after Britain’s interior minister said it was “vile and unacceptable”.

The elusive street artist wrote on Instagram that Home Secretary James Cleverly’s comments were a “bit over the top”.

He also wrote that he funded a boat which rescued 17 unaccompanied children from the central Mediterranean Sea on Monday.

“As punishment the Italian authorities have detained” the boat named MV Louise Michel, he added, “which seems vile and unacceptable to me”.

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Banksy launched the pink-painted Louise Michel ship, named after a French feminist anarchist, in 2020 with the aim of rescuing migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea from North Africa.

In summer 2023, it provided “life saving support to more than 700 people in distress” in the Mediterranean, according to the ship’s website.

An inflatable boat with dummy migrants wearing life vests was made to crowd surf during a performance by punk bank the Idles at Glastonbury, during a song which criticises hateful rhetoric around immigration.

Initially believed to be part of the band’s performance last Friday, it was later revealed that the artwork was made by Banksy without the Idles’ knowledge.

This year’s Glastonbury music festival highlighted themes surrounding immigration, with a “Terminal 1” exhibition to raise awareness about the immigrant experience, recreating a British border and making entrants answer a British citizenship test question.

Cleverly had criticized Banksy’s migrant boat stunt as celebrating “loss of life in the Channel”.

The ruling Conservative government under Rishi Sunak has made stopping “small boats” crossings a priority and promised to cut immigration if it is re-elected on Thursday.

But its flagship policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is controversial, and is tied up by court challenges.

The Tories warn that the opposition Labour party, which looks set to come to power, would make Britain a soft-touch for undocumented migrants.

One campaign video last month showed people rolling out a red carpet on a beach, ending with the line “Labour’s approach to illegal immigration”, prompting a backlash from some on social media.

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