Richard Gere helps rescue migrants

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Richard Gere helps rescue migrants

More than 80 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean on Saturday as Hollywood star Richard Gere highlighted the plight of those stranded after boarding a charity ship.

The migrants, mainly Sudanese men and adolescents, were picked up by the Ocean Viking ship from a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF), which operates the vessel along with the French charity SOS Mediterranee.

The rescue operation comes as a dispute escalates over who will take in migrants rescued by another charity ship, with mild Mediterranean weather increasing the number of people trying to make their way to Europe from Africa.

Malta said Saturday it would take in 39 migrants picked up by the Open Arms ship in the country’s rescue zone the day before, but refused entry to 121 others who have been on board the ship for nine days.

However, the Spanish charity Proactiva, which operates the ship, rejected the offer, insisting Malta also take the 121 migrants, including 30 children. Proactiva founder Oscar Camps said the decision not to take in all the migrants “caused a serious security problem on board” the Open Arms. “The anxiety levels of these people is unbearable,” he tweeted.

American movie star Gere boarded the Open Arms on Friday aiming to keep a spotlight on the situation for migrants as they wait for European nations to agree to take them in.

“Most people refer to them as migrants, but for me they are refugees that are running from a fire,” Gere told a press conference on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Saturday.

Gere said he spoke to almost everyone on board and “there are 121 stories.”

“These are extraordinary people, they are so strong, they lived such horrors, they were living in a hell […] torture, rapes imprisonment,” he said.

Gere said he didn’t care about politics, that the point was to help people in distress. “I am coming from a place with a very bizarre political situation, with a president who is putting an enormous amount of energy into dehumanizing people.

“We have our problems of refugees who come from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, from Mexico. It’s very similar to what is going on here.

“It has to stop everywhere on the planet now,” said Gere, who helped bring water and food to the migrants.

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