A Northern Ireland group set up to help Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland reach Europe has bought its own sea rescue boat thanks to a £35,000 donation from a mystery artist.
The internationally-renowned artist, who has asked to remain anonymous, donated the money to the NI-based Refugee Rescue group, which is helping save the lives of Syrian refugees desperately trying to get to the Greek island of Lesbos.
Musician and human rights activist Joby Fox, who set up the permanent rescue team of volunteers two months ago, said they had taken possession of an Atlantic 75 originally made for the RNLI Cowes lifeboat station on the Isle of Wight.
The anonymous donor gave the funds to the group when he heard of the work of fellow artist Jude Bennett, a colleague of Fox and co-founder of Refugee Rescue.
Former Energy Orchard bassist Joby said: "As this weekend saw more distressing pictures of a refugee boat sinking in the Aegean Sea with many deaths caused by drowning, it is great news that our volunteers will soon be redeployed on their fourth mission to Lesbos with their own sea rescue boat.
"Our collaboration with local boat teams has been working well, only now we have our own boat. That means we have strategic control, and that we are more versatile and flexible when responding to crisis boats in other areas of the Aegean Sea."
Refugee Rescue has been operating daily on Lesbos since October. The team has been working in collaboration with local boats and has provided skilled sea rescue volunteers from Ireland. They have been out at sea saving lives when boats and dinghies got into trouble.
Joby added: "We are now redoubling our efforts to raise funds and to ensure we can keep our rescue boat operating with a round-the-clock skilled team, and also continue to provide on-shore co-ordination, delivering support where other international agencies cannot."
Anyone interested in joining the Northern Ireland team relieving suffering in Lesbos or to provide funds for equipment should visit www.refugeerescue.co.uk