August 22, 2019
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Richard Gere takes supplies to NGO boat with 121 migrants aboard

 American actor Richard Gere takes food to an NGO operated ship that has been waiting for a week to find a port at which 121 migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea can disembark. Lampedusa, Italy, Aug 9, 2019. OPEN ARMS/HANDOUT. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

American actor Richard Gere takes food to an NGO operated ship that has been waiting for a week to find a port at which 121 migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea can disembark. Lampedusa, Italy, Aug 9, 2019. OPEN ARMS/HANDOUT. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Rome, Aug 9 (EFE).- American actor Richard Gere took food to an NGO operated ship that has been waiting for a week to find a port at which 121 migrants who were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea can disembark.

The Open Arms has shared photographs of the actor and activist taking food and supplies aboard the humanitarian vessel.

"We are here on the Open Arms boat, I just arrived here from Lampedusa and we have brought as much water and as much food as we possibly can for everyone on board. I think there's about 140 people here, maybe 150"

"Finally, a little good news. Food arrives at #OpenArms and we have an exceptional crewmate #RichardGere," the organization tweeted Friday.

Since last week Open Arms has been waiting near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, in international waters, to be assigned a safe harbor to disembark 121 people who were rescued at sea during two different operations.

The first rescue was on 1 August when 55 migrants were saved, including twin babies and a pregnant woman, just as their boat was about to capsize, founder of the NGO, Oscar Camps, told Efe.

The second was in the middle of the night the day after and 69 people were rescued and welcomed aboard, including two children and two pregnant women.

One pregnant woman who was full-term was experiencing contractions.

The remaining women presented clear signs of having suffered from violence in Libya where they had set sail from.

The two heavily pregnant women and the sister of one of them, who had lost her husband in Libya, managed to disembark.

"Everyone is doing OK now but they were on two boats in the middle of the ocean," Gere said.

"One of the boats was taken back and taken by the Lybian navy and we don't know what happened to them.

"Two boats were rescued here."

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right La Lega Nord party, has consistently campaigned to keep ports closed to NGOs, which he accuses of boosting irregular migration and has insisted that he will not allow the Open Arms vessel to enter Italian waters.

Salvini further added that the immigrants aboard were the "direct responsibility" of Madrid.

The Italian Parliament has just approved a decree, promoted by Salvini, that allows the confiscation of NGO boats that violate the ban of entering Italian waters, which could result in fines of up to one million euros.

Spanish Government spokeswoman, Isabel Celaá, said Friday that Spain wants the Open Arms migrant rescue ship to disembark the 121 migrants on board at the nearest safe port.

"International laws stipulate that a ship in a situation like the Open Arms has to disembark in the nearest safe port," Celáa said during a press conference in Madrid.

The Spanish city of Valencia has offered to host the boat and the southwestern community of Extremadura has agreed to receive the migrants.

Spanish authorities prohibited Open Arms from resuming the active search for endangered barges, limiting its activity, and on 4 July the Merchant Navy warned that the NGO could face fines of up to 900,000 euros if it contravened its request.

"The people you see here on this boat are only here because of donations to Open Arms and the work that Open Arms does.

"The most important thing for these people is to be able to get to a free port, to be able to get off the boats, to be able to get on land and just start a new life.

"So please support us here with Open Arms and help these people, brothers and sisters," Gere said. EFE


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