The mayor of Riace, a town in southern Italy revived by welcoming migrants, has started a hunger strike due to a lack of funding to continue integration projects. Over a hundred migrants may ''end up on the streets'' if funds not received in many months do not arrive soon, he warned.
The mayor of Riace, Mimmo Lucano, has started a hunger strike to demand the payment of Protection System for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (SPRAR) funds that have not arrived since September 2016 in the town. Lucano is known for his commitment to helping migrants while at the same time reviving his area. He was named by Fortune magazine among the top 50 world leaders in 2016 for his work.
Lacking public funds for too long
''Riace was excluded from the July-December 2017 budget (650,000 euros) and for 2018 it is not included about the beneficiaries of funding for the first six months,'' he said. He added that funds for Special Reception Centers (CAS) had not arrived for a long time. ''We are reaching a point of no return,'' he said. If the funds do not come, he underscored, 165 refugees including 50 children ''will end up in the streets'', 80 workers will lose their jobs, and the economy of the entire area - which was revived thanks to the integration projects - would be compromised. ''Everything would collapse under a pile of rubble,'' Lucano said.
He thus launched his protest ''against every form of racism, fascism, discrimination and exploitation to defend the weakest people, those who don't count'', he stressed, a category of people that ''I am proud to belong to''.
Regional governor backs mayor
The governor of the Reggio Calabria region, Mario Oliverio, expressed solidarity with Lucano. ''I support Mimmo Lucano,'' he said, ''forced to stage a hunger strike to defend the (migrant) reception experience, which was able to become a model at the international level. Riace cannot suffocate to death from bureaucratic reasoning that robs it of oxygen. What the mayor has said is serious indeed. Not transferring resources for the SPRAR project since September 2016 and not including Riace among the beneficiaries of the first six months (of this year) raises the question of whether a cynical design to bury the experience of the municipality.''
Oliverio stressed that ''it is inconceivable that a model of reception like the one that has been pursued, with a sense of generosity and self-sacrifice, by Mimmo Lucano can be stopped simply for official reasons. We have the duty to defend and valorize the Riace experience, cultivate a culture and a type of reception as a possible response to a phenomenon that involves men, women and children from the southern Mediterranean that have been driven by wars, hunger and desperation.''