Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will create an artwork in Germany from 14,000 life jackets discarded by migrants arriving on Greece’s Lesbos island, local authorities said on Tuesday.
“Island mayor Spiros Galinos has provided 14,000 life jackets for the creation of an artwork in Berlin by globally renowned artist Ai Weiwei,” the town said in a statement.
“This work aims to mobilise the global community regarding the crime carried out daily in the Aegean by ruthless people smugglers,” it added.
Poorly made in sweatshops in Turkey and sold to migrants at a premium by smugglers, the life jackets usually offer no help in an emergency at sea.
The 58-year-old Chinese dissident artist has taken an active interest in the plight of refugees and migrants who risk their lives by crossing the Aegean Sea in search of a better future in Europe.
He has visited Lesbos several times, and last month announced plans to create a memorial to the refugees on the island.
Last week, he caused a stir by posing for India Today magazine on a Lesbos beach as Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose tiny body was found lying face down on a Turkish beach in September.
Kurdi’s death drew international attention to the scope of the Syrian refugee crisis and prompted volunteer groups to flock to the Aegean islands to provide assistance.
But greater awareness has done little to facilitate the passage to Europe, with dozens of refugees and migrants drowning in the Aegean every week.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday that the number of refugees and migrants who perished in the Mediterranean in January alone topped 360.
The Turkish coastguard on Tuesday recovered the bodies of nine migrants including two babies after their boat sank just a short distance from land while trying to reach Europe.