- BBC News World
The well-known actor Richard Gere and the Minister of the Interior of Italy, Matteo Salvini, exchanged words and criticism this Saturday in an unusual scuffle.
It had nothing to do with some Hollywood movie or the crisis going through the Italian government that could lead to snap elections.
The reason, in fact, was sailing hundreds of miles off the coast of Italy.
The Open Arms ship, of the Spanish homonymous NGO, has been for more than a week near the Italian island of Lampedusa with 160 migrants on board, waiting for a European country to authorize a port.
The co-star of Pretty Woman, turned activist, unexpectedly visited the boat last Friday to take provisions, as a way of drawing world attention to the situation of people trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa.
And, as part of his campaign, he addressed several messages to the Italian government, which has had one of the most reluctant in Salvini opponents upon the entry of refugees into the European Union.
During a press conference this Saturday, Gere asked Rome to help the crew of the Open Arms so that they could enter one of its ports, at the same time that he considered that the Italian authorities should stop “demonize people”.
The actor questioned the anti-immigration laws of the Italian minister, which imposes fines on organizations of human rights to save migrants in the Mediterranean.
“No one told me to come. I came out of shape spontaneous. I was spending the holidays with my family near Rome and after the anti-immigration law was passed, a law that nobody could believe, I decided to visit the Open Arms organization ship, which I met a few years ago in Barcelona, ”he said.
He also asked to host refugees arriving in Europe who, in his opinion, accumulate “stories of much suffering”.
The winner of a Golden Globe for his performance in Chicago compared the performance of Salvini, who has made repeated efforts to to block the docking of ships with migrants in Italy, with the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
“(In the US) we have our problems with refugees that come from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico … It is very similar to what is happening here, “he said.
What almost no one expected was that on the other side, he would get an answer.
The response of the also deputy prime minister of Italy was immediate.
Salvini called Gere “generous millionaire” and told him to take the 160 immigrants to Hollywood in his private plane.
“The generous millionaire announces his concern for the immigrants of the Open Arms, we appreciate it: that he takes to Hollywood, in his private plane, all the people on board to put them in his mansions“, said.
The Home Secretary regarded the requests to disembark from the Opens Arms as a “provocation” that ignores the life of migrants.
According to Salvini, it should be Spain, the country where the ship is registered, the one that welcomes the migrants, something to which Madrid refused.
The politician of extreme right He also threatened to capture the boat, as a result of special powers recently handed over to him by the parliament.
“Surely, (Gere) is impressed by the decisions that have been made to strengthen the police and counter the smugglers and criminals. Italy had been waiting for those measures for years, “he said.
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Open Arms: the tough dispute between actor Richard Gere and Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini over a migrant ship in the Mediterranean