Richard Gere Clashes with Italy's Interior Minister Over Migrants

Richard Gere criticized Italy’s anti-migrant policy after he delivered supplies to migrants who are stranded on a boat in the Mediterranean. The country’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini then had some choice words for the actor.

Going backwards is not possible

Actor Richard Gere urged Italy’s leaders to shift their policy on migrants who have become stranded on a charity boat in the Mediterranean by drawing parallels to the similar crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. “They are demonizing human beings. This has to stop everywhere on this planet, now. And it will stop if we say stop. Gere had visited the Open Arms ship to deliver supplies and food to 160 migrants stranded on the boat which is not permitted to dock.

“We have also a president who is putting an enormous amount of energy into demonizing people, who are again running from fire. We never had problems with refugees coming from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, from Mexico. And this is very similar to what you are going through here and yet a very bizarre government who is intent are not solving the problem, which can be solved. These people don't want to go back. Going backwards is not possible. Where they came from was such a place of pain and inhumanity. They told me if, if when they got on these boats they didn't know where they were going to go. They didn't care as long as they were leaving Libya, leaving the pain.”

The migrants were put in limbo in international waters after Italy and Malta rejected requests to disembark them. Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini responded to Gere. In August 2019, Salvini pushed through a law that fines rescue boats up to $1.12 million or unauthorized entry into Italian waters. It also allows the arrest of ship captains if they ignore orders. As of August 4, 2019, 840 people have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2019 alone according to the International Organization for Migration. This is down by nearly half from a year earlier.