Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini hit back at Richard Gere for criticizing the country’s immigration policy. He told the U.S. celebrity to take illegal migrants with him to Hollywood.

“Given this generous millionaire is voicing concern for the fate of the Open Arms migrants, we thank him,” the Italian politician responded sarcastically. “He can take all the people aboard back to Hollywood, on his private plane, and support them in his villas. Thank you, Richard!”

Richard Gere is the latest Hollywood star to slam Italy’s decision to close its shores to migrant boats coming from North Africa. Javier Bardem and Antonio Banderas have recently come out in support of NGO-run migrant boats operating in the Mediterranean sea.

On Sunday, Gere went on board the Spanish NGO ship ‘Open Arms’ off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The actor recorded a video message on the ship, urging people to support the charity and migrants blocked by the Italian authorities. He also accused Salvini’s government of “demonizing asylum seekers.”

The Austrian newspaper Krone Zeitung reported:

The U.S. actor Richard Gere met the rescued migrants onboard the Spanish NGO boat Open Arms. In a subsequent press conference in Italian Island of Lampedusa, Gere sharply criticized Italy’s stance towards migrants. “I love Italians a lot; your generosity; and your love for life. And yet I notice that something has changed,” the Hollywood star said, who had shortly brought food to the boat. Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini  swiftly responded to Gere on Twitter: “You can take all the migrants with you to American on your private jet, [are] care for them at your villa. Thank you.”

Gere highlighted the plight of the refugees onboard the Open Arms: “Most people refer to them as ‘migrants,’ but for me they are refugees who managed to escape fire,” Gere said in a video released by the [NGO] Proactiva Open Arms. He reportedly talked to all the people onboard, all had their own stories. (…)

Salvini declared in a statement on Friday that Italy was “neither legally obliged, nor willing” to take people. This applies to the refugees on the boat, Open Arms. In addition to that he hoped Richard gets a sunburn and takes the refugees with him to the Spanish vacation island of Ibiza. [a reference to Spain’s left-wing government which has been supportive of the EU’s immigration policy] [Translated by the author]

Salvini has become a favorite target for Liberal celebrities and the mainstream media because of the prominent role he plays on the European stage. In May 2019, he successfully led an alliance of anti-EU nationalist parties in the European election. His right-wing European Alliance of People and Nations (EAPN), which includes Germany’s AfD party and France’s Marine Le Pen-led National Rally, made significant gains in the EU election.

Since Salvini’s right-wing league came to power in June 2018 as part of a coalition government, legislation has been introduced to stop illegal immigration. The new laws give authorities power to prevent unauthorized boats from docking, detain the crew, and impose fines of up to €1 million.

The row over migrant boats comes at a time with European pro-immigration NGOs receiving massive political backing from the EU. These NGOs are sending migrant ‘rescue’ boats off the North African coast and bring illegal immigrants to Italy, Malta, and other Mediterranean countries. The self-described ‘rescue’ boat operators are openly challenging Italy’s ban on illegal immigration.

In June, Italy arrested Carola Rackete, the captain of an unauthorized German migrant ship. Salvini called her a “rich, white, German” who had committed “an act of war” against his country after she rammed an Italian coast guard boat blocking ship her from entering the port.

[Cover image via YouTube]

 
 
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