Mimmo Lucano, Riace's suspended mayor, has launched a new initiative to support integration projects for migrants in the southern Italian town. The projects were blocked after the pro-migrant politician was accused of corruption and helping illegal immigration last year.
Domenico 'Mimmo' Lucano has promoted an initiative to relaunch projects to host migrants and promote their integration. The initiative is called "E stato il vento" (There was wind).
"Today, in spite of what happened over the last few months, we want to re-build that project of community, hosting and integration," said Lucano during a press conference in Caulonia.
Lucano and Riace became known worldwide for the town's pro-migrant policies. By welcoming migrants, Lucano was able to revive his once rundown town. But after Lucano was accused of corruption and aiding illegal immigration, the mayor was suspended and forced to leave his town last October to comply with a court order banning him from staying there. Since then, Lucano has been living in Caulonia, a small town a half-hour drive south of Riace. Lucano denies the charges against him. "I hope [...] to be able to return to Riace one day," he said at the project presentation.
Initiative to promote new 'Riace model'
The press conference for the launch of Lucano's new foundation was attended, among others, by the former mayor of Rosarno, Giuseppe Lavorato, who will serve as the foundation's president, as well as Father Alex Zanotelli,(a well known Italian priest and missionary who spent years living in Africa before returning to work in poor areas of Naples) and Chiara Sasso, the author of the book ''Riace, una storia italiana'' (Riace, an Italian story).
"In Riace, everything happened in a spontaneous way, when a ship full of refugees reached the beach," said Lucano, referring to a boat with Kurdish refugees that reached Riace's shores in 1998. Lucano, then a schoolteacher, saw an opportunity and offered them the town's abandoned apartments along with job training. "The entire community rescued and hosted migrants looking for a better place to live, a different life, one far from violence and war," he said.
'Inhumane conditions' in shanty town
At the press conference, Lucano also criticized the current Italian government regarding the situation experienced by migrants in the shanty town of San Ferdinando, near Reggio Calabria, where fires have claimed one victim already. He said the government and prefecture in Reggio Calabria had looked the other way and disregarded the "inhumane conditions" in San Ferdinando, calling it "a real ghetto" where migrants "continue to die."