Acclaimed American actor Richard Gere apparently thinking he was in Hollywood, attempted to dictate immigration policy to Italy’s Interior Minister, only to find out that his celebrity status isn’t worth much in the “Bel Paese” (beautiful country).
Gere found himself on the wrong-side of Italy’s immigration issue when he inserted himself into the country’s migrant policy when he urged the government to aid African migrants who’ve been stranded on a Spanish charity boat for more than a week.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini responded directly to Gere’s interference in a statement, according to Reuters.
“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.”
Adding, “Thank you, Richard!”
The public rebuke of Gere by Salvini, illustrates Italy’s no-nonsense immigration policy, perhaps the most stringent in all of Europe.
The caravan of boats within the Mediterranean Sea is similar to what America is currently experiencing on land, with hundreds of undocumented migrants attempting to enter Italy by sea.
This latest incident involved 121 African migrants adrift in a boat near, Lampedusa Island, along with another 39 crammed in a wooded raft nearby, when a distress call late Friday evening asking Maltese officials to assist those within the raft
Malta had offered to accept the 39 people from this rescue but not the 121 already aboard, among them 32 minors.
“Open Arms” founder Oscar Camps said on Twitter, “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.”
The same scenario took place just last year when Spain accepted migrants from “Aquarius,” a boat filled with African refugees, however, this time Spain will no longer accept undocumented migrants, saying that “Open Arms” should look for a closer port.
Thus far the 121 African migrants are currently in limbo with both Malta and Italy refusing to accept any more refugees.
Gere, whose current net worth stands at roughly $120 million dollars, visited the boat on Friday, asking that the Italian government stop “dehumanizing people” and let the 121 migrants on board disembark.
This week the European Union’s executive called on member states to show solidarity and find a solution for those 121 African migrants adrift with no port-of-call.
Gere attempted to draw a parallel between the crisis on our southern border and what’s taking place in Europe
“We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salvador, 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.”
However Italian government officials, including Salvini, have refused to allow ships carrying migrants to dock.
Salvini, this week took another decisive stand against allowing charity ships by instituting tougher sanctions towards ships that seek to bring migrants rescued at sea to Italy.
Within the last year tensions between non-governmental organization such as “Open Arms” and European countries like Italy have struggled with debating who should be responsible for accepting a continuous flow of migrants — virtually undermining a countries sovereignty along with their immigration policies.
It might also be argued that charity groups like “Open Arms” actually creates and fosters an environment where migrants are encouraged to get on board a boat, rather than stay at home.