After Richard Gere urged European leaders to allow North African migrants into their countries on Friday, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini responded with a sarcastic statement suggesting the Hollywood star will surely load up the migrants onto his “private jet” and house them in his villas.
“As the generous millionaire airs his demands about the fate of the Open Arms immigrants, we thank him: He will be able to bring everyone in his private jet to Hollywood and keep them in his villas,” Salvini said in a statement following Gere’s media stunt, according to The Independent. “Thank you, Richard!”
The “Pretty Woman” star spoke to the press on Friday on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea, joining representatives from pro-migrant organization Open Arms. Surrounded by young male migrants, Gere said “the most important thing” is for the migrants aboard “to be able to get to a free port, to be able to get off the boats and get on land and start a new life.”
Gere was handing out supplies to the migrants aboard the ship.
Salvini has refused to accept the migrants into Italy, staying true to his tough talk on migrants and immigration, more broadly. According to report from Fox News published at the beginning of this year, Italy experienced a tumble in immigration. “Italy’s nationalist-populist government is hailing new numbers that show immigration into the country has plummeted dramatically within months of the government taking power, due to its refusal to accept NGO rescue boats of migrants coming from Africa,” the report said. “Official data show that in January 2018, 3,176 migrants landed on the Italian coast via boats. But in January 2019 that number was just 155.”
According to The Independent, Gere said at press conference concerning migrants that “demonizing people has to stop everywhere on the planet, and it will stop if we say stop.”
“We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico … It’s very similar to what you are going through here,” the actor said, drawing comparisons to President Donald Trump.
“These are extraordinary people, they are so strong, they have been such through such horrors,” he said.
“Their passage from their home counties to Libya, what they had to endure, the women above all. […] The women had been all raped, multiple times. The men tortured in prison, not just once but multiple times,” Gere noted, adding, “What most people refer to as migrants, I refer to as refugees that are running from a fire.”
As noted by Bloomberg News, “Salvini has made a flagship policy of refusing to allow the migrant vessels, coming mostly from nearby North Africa, to enter Italian waters. Now in the first steps of a months-long electoral campaign, Salvini is likely to double down on the anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s made him Italy’s most popular politician for now.”
Open Arms founder Oscar Camps claims migrants rescued in international waters “have a right to safe harbor and to apply for asylum in Europe,” the outlet noted, adding: “The vessel is floating in international waters near the island, which is located about half-way between Tunisia and the southern Italian coast.”
“No decree or fine will stop us from protecting people at sea,” Camps vowed.