An anti-racism rally in Naples, Italy | Credit: ANSA/ Cesare Abbate
An anti-racism rally in Naples, Italy | Credit: ANSA/ Cesare Abbate

The immigrant town council will focus on issues facing the daily lives of local migrant communities, as well as the topic of migrant reception. With Italy facing a move to the right, and increasing racism and populism, the council will also address ways to better incorporate multiculturalism in Naples.

"We have been speaking for years with the town council, since the beginning of the De Magistris administration. There is a great deal of willingness to meet with associations representing immigrants, and the time has come to make this official and to have recognized representation that includes all the communities and not only certain groups," said Jomahe Solis. 

Solis, who arrived in Naples from Ecuador 20 years ago, will be part of the Immigrants' town council, a body that has been set up by the Naples town council. It will act as a political body, setting forth ideas and taking part in the administrative life of the city. 

Two years in the planning 

The authorities in Naples worked on the idea patiently for two years, said welfare Councillor Roberta Gaeta. A first step was the establishment of "technical roundtables including one on immigration, involving immigrant communities that live here. They will now have a real role in choices for the city through this body." 

Representatives of the diverse foreign communities living in Naples will take part. These diverse backgrounds include people originally from Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, China, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Russia. The council will be a further step towards greater political representation that is being prepared by the Naples town council. The plan is to appoint an immigrant town council adviser who will not have voting rights, but who will take part in the town council sessions. 

"I am touched," said Tatiana Pompuleva, head of the Bella Russia association of immigrants from former Soviet Union countries. "I am Belorussian, but we have members from 15 countries. Today there is this council and we take a bit of the credit. Since we have always asked for something that brings together immigrants and allows us to become protagonists of our lives here in Naples. We do not want only Italian associations doing things for us. We want to do something for ourselves, to work for ourselves and for the city. To do our part." 

Italy suffering from growing intolerance and racism 

This contribution is seen as especially important at a time when Italy is going through a period of rising intolerance and racism. "We decided to present the institution of the immigrants town council prior to the parliamentary elections to make a statement to the national political sphere. Naples is once again backing human rights, while many others flee before such rights, for example the proposed law on citizenship, known as 'Ius Soli'," said Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris. He added that "integration policies are needed. The wealth of Naples has always come from cultural and religious exchange. If the city is to be truly multicultural, it must listen to immigrants' ideas, ideas coming from this council." 

"We are facing a time," Councillor Gaeta said, "in which violence, hatred and racism towards those who are wrongly seen as different and dangerous is on the increase. I always go to the port when there are migrant landings and I can assure you that terrorists are not among those coming on the boats. These are desperate people who flee with their children, risking their lives." The town council will focus on reception, as well as the daily lives of immigrants. They will also put forward proposals to make Naples truly multicultural, because immigrants in Naples "want to contribute to change by taking an active part in the life of the city," Gaeta added. 

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