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Has-been actor encourages people smuggling

Another boatload of economic migrants heading for Europe

Richard Gere is an American actor and is currently aiding and abetting human trafficking in the Mediterranean. If newspapers were honest that is what the headlines would read.

The 69 year old Gere is on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily, after a visit onboard a Spanish NGO ship, Proactiva Open Arms, where he met some of the 160 migrants the vessel rescued in the strait of Sicily. The ship has been stuck for 10 days off Lampedusa due to Italy’s ban on landing migrants. The tiny island which is Italian is the closest island to Libya from where tens of thousands of economic migrants from Somalia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa embark on their often perilous crossing. The island’s infrastructure is at breaking point

The 69-year-old actor appeared in a video message urging people to support the charity and the people on board. “All hands onboard would have been lost,” Gere said in the video.

“So, the people you see here on this boat, they’re only here because of the donations to Open Arms for the work they do.”

The has been thespian is on a clash course with the popular deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini who last year declared Italy’s ports closed to migrant rescue ships. Salvini replied to the actor: “Given this generous millionaire is voicing concern for the fate of the Open Arms migrants, we thank him.”

“He can take all the people aboard back to Hollywood, on his private plane,’’ Salvini said, “and support them in his villas. Thank you, Richard!”’

The Italian government has introduced a new security decree, drafted by Salvini, who is also the interior minister, that would mean NGO rescue boats bringing migrants to Italy without permission could face fines of up to €50,000 (£47,000).