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Spain to take some of Open Arms migrants; Richard Gere persuades Sánchez
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Aug 16, 2019
SPAIN and five other countries in Europe have offered to take in the 147 migrants who remain on board the charity rescue boat Open Arms now that Italy has temporarily lifted its ban on undocumented migrants seeking asylum.
France, Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg and Romania have joined Spain in agreeing to resettle the refugees from Africa who were rescued from drowning in the central Mediterranean and who are mostly escaping threatened or actual violence, torture and, in the case of girls and women, sexual assault.
Open Arms' Italian captain Riccardo Gatti says he will 'believe it when he sees it', given that the craft has been adrift on the sea for a fortnight and no European government has offered to help.
In the last 36 hours, another four rescuees were evacuated due to medical problems, joining about 10 others, including three pregnant women about to give birth at any minute.
Gatti says far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration law is 'null and void', since none of the other ministers in his government has backed it, and he hopes Italian authorities will not renege on their promise and will allow the boat to dock on the island of Lampedusa in the next few hours.
The Open Arms has been permitted to enter Italian waters in the previous two days, having spent the last 13 days adrift in waters that did not belong to any country as it was not granted permission from any national authority, meaning drifting within three nautical miles of a coast would have been considered an illegal incursion.
Spain's government says the migrant issue needs to be dealt with on a Europe-wide basis, and has been pushing for the EU to agree measures with all member States concerning rescue and distribution - but Spain has been very much alone in its appeal so far, with several right-wing European governments opposing having anything to do with the refugees.
Gatti reveals that the situation on the boat at the moment is 'reaching crisis point', with despairing refugees threatening suicide and many of them in poor health.
Hollywood star Richard Gere, on a break with his Spanish wife Alejandra Silva in Rome, purchased and hand-delivered food parcels for everyone on board the Open Arms earlier this week.
He has just revealed that he spoke to Spanish president Pedro Sánchez yesterday (Thursday) and that the latter 'understands the situation'.
"I spoke to him from the boat and reiterated how much I believed in his sense of goodwill and his sensitivity, but how I believed he was looking at it from a political, not a humanitarian, viewpoint," Gere said.
"The metaphor I used was that these people were jumping out of a burning building and that those whose values border on neo-fascism were not only failing to applaud the rescuers, but actually penalising them and forcing them to put the people back inside the burning building.
"Anyone who has a negative image of the migrants should speak to them personally. They're innocent people - traumatised women and children."
Gere had talked to most of those on board and said the tales they told of what they were running from were horrific.
He described a teenage boy being bought and sold by the military, and three generations of women who had been repeatedly raped and tortured.
"There's a clear right side and wrong side to this issue in the face of the darkest forces," Gere, 69, reported.
The actor referred to US president Donald Trump as 'the darkest force on the planet'.
"You might feel the presence of the far-right in Spain, but in the USA, we're much worse," he revealed.
Although his wife is from Galicia and they met in Positano, Italy, Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva live in the USA, along with their first child as a couple, a little boy born in February.
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