The migrants of the town of Riace, previously considered a model of integration for immigrants, have expressed anger and concern after the arrest of Mayor Domenico Lucano and their possible transfer to another location ordered by the Italian government.
The 130 migrants living in the southern town of Riace are angry and confused after the interior ministry issued a memo saying they could be transferred due to irregularities in the Protection System for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (SPRAR) managed by the municipality headed by Mayor Domenico Lucano, who was recently arrested.
However, the ministry has said nobody will be forced to move from Riace: Migrants will be relocated only on a voluntary basis. This is the mechanism prompted by the end of a SPRAR project, officials said.
The anger of migrants
Lucano, known by locals as 'Mimmo', has been a key figure in Riace for migrants who still rely on him to understand what lies ahead.
Ever since reports of the government's memo came out, migrants have gathered in front of Lucano's house, where he has been under house arrest since October 2 on charges, among others, of aiding illegal immigration.
There has been no tension but concern and anger during such demonstrations. A group of migrants asked to talk to the mayor directly. ''We don't want to go away from Riace - our new life is here'', they reportedly told him.
The mayor tried to calm them, assuring them that they ''won't go away''. The mayor has expressed concerned for their fate, although he reportedly remains determined.
Lucano a 'father figure' for migrants
Lucano has said he wants to fight to regain his freedom. His arrest was ordered by a judge for preliminary investigations (GIP) in Locri at the request of prosecutors. A hearing on Tuesday at the tribunal of Reggio Calabria to re-examine the appeal presented by Lucano's attorneys to revoke the arrest order will be key in this respect.
Although Lucano is under house arrest for the moment, he nevertheless remains a fundamental presence for migrants in Riace, many said. ''He is an extremely beautiful person'', noted a woman of Nigerian nationality. ''He is like a father for us'', she said, crying.