Richard Gere appeals to Italian government to let boatful of refugees come ashore

Greer McNally
Actor Richard Gere joins the Proactiva Open Arms NGO team and Italian chef Gabriele Rubini for a news conference in support of the NGO ship "Open Arms", which is carrying stranded migrants, in Lampedusa, Italy, August 10, 2019. (REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane)

A Hollywood star for over 40 years, Richard Gere understands the power of celebrity. Perhaps that’s why he’s taken a break from his family holiday to help a boatful of refugees stranded in the Mediterranean Sea.

This morning Reuters reported that the actor sat down at a press conference to appeal to the Italian government to allow the refugees, currently on board the NGO rescue boat Open Arms off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, to disembark on Italian soil.

He spoke out about how refugees are being demonised, saying, “this has to stop everywhere on this planet now. And it will stop if we say stop.”

Adding, “We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salavador, Nicaragua, Mexico... It’s very similar to what you are going through here.”

Read more: Richard Gere Visits Rescue Ship Carrying Over 100 Migrants

The press conference was part of an appeal by Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms to convince the Italian and Maltese governments to allow the refugees to come ashore. The 160 migrants on the rescue boat had been picked up at sea over the last week.

A video of Gere visiting the boat to distribute food and water had been released the day before.

The Pretty Woman actor had been on holiday in Tuscany with his wife, son Homer and new baby Alexander when the appeal came to his attention.

Alejandra Silva, whom Gere married last year, took to her Instagram to post the video about the refugees stranded at sea.

Read more: Richard Gere and wife Alejandra Silva welcome first baby together

In the film, the actor appealed for a “free port” to take in the refugees, who had been rescued from two boats. He stated that the people on board would have ended up in the ocean if the Open Arms boat hadn’t come to their aid.

Earlier in the week, the Maltese government had offered to take 39 of the passengers, as that was the number they believed had been recovered in their waters, but the NGO refused.

When that decision was questioned – and people asked if the 39 had been given the choice to leave – Open Arms founder Oscar Camps said on Twitter.

“The decision is made by the captain, who is sovereign and responsible for the security onboard, following the article 184 of the Maritime Navigation Law.”

Earlier this week, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, said to Ansa, "They have had more than enough time to get to Spain, the country that gave the ship its flag."

"I remind them that Italy's territorial waters are closed and we are ready to seize the ship."