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Italy’s Model Migrant Town Struggles to Survive

Some migrants and locals gather for a talk in front of the 'Taverna Donna Rosa,' in Riace, Italy, the main centre for the protest against the central government. PHOTO: The National/Giacomo Sini

19 October 2018

FRANCE 24 (AFP) — The artisan shops in Riace’s historic centre are shuttered and its alleyways quiet as locals wait to see what will happen to Italy’s world-renowned model of migrant integration.

The mayor of the hilltop hamlet in Calabria was hounded out of town earlier this week for favouring illegal immigration, but Domenico Lucano has vowed to fight on to protect the way of life here.

He will have to do it from afar as he is banned from Riace, once a ghost town before Lucano, 60, opened the door to migrants and asylum-seekers.

“I’m not going to give up. Riace represents an idea which counters barbarism and we’ll go on even without state aid,” Lucano said in an interview with AFPTV.

Under the programme he started, Riace’s abandoned houses were restored, artisan shops were opened and the tourists flocked to see a place where around 400 of its 1,800 inhabitants are foreigners, from Africa to Pakistan and Syria.

But last week the Italian interior ministry ordered the programme shut down after an investigation, which was launched in 2016, uncovered alleged administrative wrongdoing.

A judicial inquiry has also raised suspicions of “marriages of convenience” for asylum purposes.

Lucano was placed briefly under house arrest, before a court allowed him out but banished him from Riace.

The state had already turned off the tap, withholding the 35 euros it pays migrant centres daily for each person, affecting roughly a third of the migrant population in Riace.

The bustling alleyways of the village which overlooks the Ionian Sea have gradually become quiet and empty. The shops in the so-called “global village” have shut one after another. […]

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