Italy’s Interior Minister had the perfect response to actor Richard Gere, who inserted himself into the country’s immigration issues when he urged the government to help African migrants who’ve been stranded on a Spanish charity boat for more than a week.
"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,” Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Thank you Richard!"
Gere, who has a net worth of $120 million dollars, visited the boat on Friday, asking that the Italian government stop “demonizing people” and let the 160 migrants on board disembark.
The boat was at sea near Lampedusa with 121 people aboard from earlier rescues when, late on Friday evening, Maltese authorities asked it to assist 39 people in a wooden raft.
Malta had offered to accept the 39 people from this rescue but not the 121 already aboard, among them 32 minors, they added, saying the NGO had refused the offer.
"[Malta] has refused to disembark the other 121 people who have been aboard for 9 days. This has created a serious security problem aboard. Their levels of anxiety are unsustainable," Open Arms founder Oscar Camps said on Twitter.
The boat has been in limbo since Malta and Italy rejected requests to disembark there. Spain's Socialist government accepted the Acquarius NGO boat last year following a similar standoff but has since hardened its position, saying that the Open Arms should look for a closer port.
This week the European Union's executive called on member states to show solidarity and find a solution for the boat. (Reuters)
"We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salavador, Nicaragua, Mexico,” he said during a news conference on the Italian island of Lampedusa, comparing the situation to the immigration crisis back in the U.S. “It's very similar to what you are going through here.”
He continued: "This has to stop everywhere on this planet now. And it will stop if we say stop.”
Italian government officials, including Salvini, have refused to allow ships carrying migrants to dock.