Hollywood actor Richard Gere talking to a migrant on the Open Arms rescue ship | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa
Hollywood actor Richard Gere talking to a migrant on the Open Arms rescue ship | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa

American actor Richard Gere visited the Spanish NGO ship Open Arms on Friday to express solidarity with the rescued migrants who have been stranded on the boat for days.

American actor Richard Gere was on holiday with his family in Rome when he heard about the migrant rescue ship Open Arms. The Spanish NGO ship had been stranded off Lampedusa for days with 160 migrants onboard and no port to disembark them.

The actor spoke with his 19-year-old son Homer James Jigme and decided to help. He called the founder of the Spanish NGO, Oscar Camps, and together with his son, he took the first flight to Lampedusa. He boarded the Open Arms ship on Friday last week to meet the migrants and to help bring them food and water. 

Following the visit, he attended a press conference on Lampedusa with Camps, the director of Open Arms Riccardo Gatti and TV personality Gabriele Rubini, known as Chef Rubio. Gere spoke about his shock when he heard about the migrants' journey, including how women were raped at Libyan detention camps. He called for the migrants to be allowed to disembark. 

'I came to Lampedusa only to help these people'

Gere told reporters that his decision to help was spontaneous and nobody had asked for his help. He said that in the US, people who come from Mexico, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador are also demonized and it's "time to say enough."

"I love Italians, your spirit, your soul, your generosity and also your joy for life. However, I've noticed that something has changed," the actor said. 

Gere said that after hearing about a new security decree targeting charities operating migrant rescue vessels, he said he couldn't believe his Italian friends could harbor ''such hatred." 

''It's not the first time I come to Lampedusa'', the actor said, recalling that he visited the local migrant hotspot three years ago and saw the suffering ''of those who are called migrants but are actually refugees."

'He can take everybody to Hollywood', Salvini

When he was asked what he thought about Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who drew up the security measure and is the architect of Italy's closed ports policy against NGO run migrant rescue ships, Gere said he is ''not interested in Italian politics." 

"I also come from a country where there is a bizarre situation'', he added, speaking about a generation of politicians who put their energy into ''diving people."  However, he said, we are all connected. Without the Open Arms, the migrants rescued in the Strait of Sicily on August 1 ''would be dead'', Gere said.

Salvini responded: "Given this generous millionaire is voicing concern for the fate of the Open Arms migrants, we thank him: he can take back to Hollywood, on his private plane, all the people aboard and support them in his villas. Thank you Richard!" he said in a statement.


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