Richard Gere Visits Migrants Stranded In The Mediterranean Sea

On Friday, Richard Gere was sailing the Mediterranean, though, unlike many other notable people, it wasn't on an 80-foot yacht with a chock full of fellow celebrities.

The American actor, 69, visited rescued migrants on a humanitarian ship that has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea for over a week. The vessel became another pawn in the larger debate about immigration that European nations have yet to resolve, reports say.

According to The Associated Press, Gere took food and supplies by boat to 121 people aboard the Open Arms, a rescue ship floating in international waters near Lampedusa, an Italian island south of Sicily and Malta. The Open Arms was blocked from entering ports in Italy and Malta, as those nations want fellow European Union countries to take in more of the migrants crossing the sea.

Two videos posted on Instagram by Gere's wife, Alejandra, show the Hollywood star surrounded by migrants who had fled war-torn Libya on a smuggling boat before being rescued.

"The people that you see here on this boat—they're only here because of the donations to Open Arms and the work that Open Arms does," Gere said, speaking to the camera.

He also noted that another smuggling boat was turned back and taken by the Libyan Navy. "We don't know what happened to them," he said.

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This is their story..... #richardgere #openarms

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The actor has a history of human rights activism, often campaigning for environmental issues and AIDS research. Through the Gere Foundation, he reportedly established the Heroes Project, which aimed to reduce the HIV/AIDS stigma in India through a nationwide public education campaign.

According to several reports, Gere has been banned from China for advocating for human rights in Tibet—an initiative that apparently cost him a number of acting jobs, given China's rapidly growing Chinese audience.

"There are definitely movies that I can't be in because the Chinese will say, 'Not with him,'" he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. "I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese."

This year, Gere happened to be in Italy when he saw the news about the boat's situation. He then contacted the Spanish charity Open Arms and asked "How can I help?" a spokeswoman for the group reportedly told AP.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a report on Tuesday that 39,289 migrants and refugees have traveled to Europe by sea so far this year as of August 4—a number that is about 34 percent less than the one recorded during the same period in 2018. It also noted that 840 people have died this year on the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Gere could not be reached by Newsweek for comment.

Richard Gere
Actor Richard Gere attends a press conference for 'The Dinner' in Berlin. Gere has criticized Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Israeli settlement building. John MacDougall/AFP/Getty