RICHARD GERE has come under fire from Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini after he called for compassion for migrants stranded in the Mediterranean.
The pair clashed after the Hollywood actor criticised the country’s refusal to let in 121 migrants stuck off the island of Lampedusa.
Gere called for the Italian government to ‘stop demonising refugees’ as he was pictured delivering food to the boat. They were rescued by Spanish NGO ship Proactiva Open Arms.
Mr Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing League party, berated Gere over his remarks and told him to ‘support them in his villas’.
He said: ‘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. Thank you Richard!’
In a pointed statement, Gere said: ‘These are extraordinary people, they have been through such horrors. Their passage from their home countries to Libya, what they had to endure… the women had been all raped, multiple times, and the men tortured in prison.’
A new Italian law introduced by Mr Salvini permits fines of up to €1million for owners of rescue ships that enter Italy’s waters without permission.
In his campaign to scupper the aid groups’ efforts, the politician told state broadcaster RAI: ‘Italy is not a refugee camp for Europe. Go either to Spain or Norway.’