Migrants and residents of Riace | Photo: ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO
Migrants and residents of Riace | Photo: ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO

A court in Calabria has ruled that it was wrong of the interior ministry to exclude the town of Riace from its refugee and asylum seeker protection system, known as SPRAR.

The interior ministry had excluded Riace, which is known for its pro-migrant administration, from the SPRAR system because of alleged irregularities in its migration management. Deputy Riace Mayor Giuseppe Gervasi filed an appeal against the ministry's decision in January. 

This week the court ruled in favor of the southern Italian town, saying that the interior ministry did not raise the issue of irregularities with the local administration nor did it grant local officials a deadline to solve the alleged problems.

The judges also said the ministry had behaved in a "contradictory" manner by denouncing irregularities and excluding Riace from the system one month after authorizing it to continue operating within the SPRAR program. 

Salvini says 'we are going forward, ports are closed'

Riace has long been a battleground for pro- and anti-migrant forces in Italy. 

Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-migration League party, commented on the ruling, saying that "we are going forward, by keeping ports closed, rescuing lives, expelling criminals who attack, threaten and rape."

"If I am given enough strength, I will be closing ports in Europe as well as in Italy," he said.

Mayor says exclusion was 'uncalled for'  

The mayor of Riace, Domenico 'Mimmo' Lucano, welcomed the court's decision, saying the town's exclusion from the system had been "uncalled for." He said he was happy and had been confident about the outcome "because I understood that they were stretching the matter, also from an administrative standpoint," referring to the interior ministry's exclusion of Riace from the SPRAR system. However, he said that he was also upset because "everybody was transferred and now [the court] is saying we are right but meanwhile the SPRAR of Riace has been cancelled." 

Lucano is currently suspended amid an investigation into whether he abetted illegal immigration. 

The mayor had been widely praised for Riace's model of integration and was named one of Fortune magazine's 50 greatest world leaders in 2016. More recently, left-wing parliamentarians have put forward Riace for the Nobel peace prize.

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