Richard Gere and Matteo Salvini clash over migrant ship

Europe
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Richard Gere speaking during a press conference on the island of Lampedusa, 10 August 2019Image copyright EPA
Image caption Richard Gere called on the Italian government to stop “demonising people”

Hollywood star Richard Gere has called upon the Italian government to assist migrants who have been stranded on a Spanish charity boat in the Mediterranean for more than a week.

The Italian government needed to stop “demonising people”, the actor said.

Mr Gere boarded the vessel on Friday, which has been blocked from entering Italian waters.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini hit back, saying Mr Gere should take the 160 migrants to Hollywood.

Mr Gere, who visited the Open Arms ship in a show of support, joined a news conference on the Italian island of Lampedusa calling for the migrants to be allowed to dock.

He made comparisons between Mr Salvini, who is also interior minister and has made repeated efforts to block migrant ships from docking in Italy, and US President Donald Trump, who has faced widespread criticism for his immigration policies.

“We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico… It’s very similar to what you are going through here,” he said, accusing politicians in both Italy and the US of demonising migrants.

“This has to stop everywhere on this planet now. And it will stop if we say stop,” he added.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Matteo Salvini has blocked migrant boats from entering Italian waters

It didn’t take Mr Salvini long to respond.

“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.

Mr Salvini has pushed through sanctions on NGO boats that aim to bring migrants rescued at sea to Italy.

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