Italian right-wing regime arrests mayor for anti-racism

This 2 October 2018 video says about itself:

Italy: Hundreds protest arrest of pro-refugee mayor

Several hundred people staged a protest in Rome on Tuesday to demonstrate their support for the arrested pro-refugee mayor of Riace, Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Lucano.

Lucano, who achieved worldwide fame for his role in welcoming refugees to his village in the south of Italy, was arrested on charges of aiding illegal immigration on Tuesday. The protesters vented their anger at what they believe was a calculated decision by Italy’s [right-wing] coalition government to target someone who is widely seen as a champion for the integration of migrants.

From Wikipedia:

Domenico Lucano is the mayor of Riace, in southern Italy. He gained worldwide attention through his innovative approach to dealing with refugees, in the context of the European migrant crisis. About 450 refugees have settled there among the 1,800 inhabitants of the village, revitalising it and preventing the closure of the village school.

Lucano came second runner-up in the 2010 World Mayor competition. …

Lucano was also listed by Fortune as one of the world’s greatest leaders in 2016; featuring at number 40 in the magazine’s listing.

By Ylenia Gostoli, 2 October 2018:

Italy’s pro-refugee mayor Domenico Lucano arrested

Domenico Lucano, known internationally for promoting migrant integration, charged with ‘aiding illegal migration’.

The mayor of an Italian town known around the world as a model of integration has been put under house arrest for ‘aiding illegal migration’.

Lucano’s partner, Tesfahun Lemlem, was banned from living in the town under the same charges.

And the right-wing regime of racist Deputy Prime Minister Salvini may try to deport her from Italy.

The arrest on Tuesday morning came amid a government inquiry into the allocation of funds for refugees in the town.

Italy’s … government has adopted a hardline stance on migration controls in recent months.

International plaudits

Lucano has won international acclaim for ‘repopulating’ Riace with migrants and successfully integrating the arrivals.

With a population of about 1,500, the town hosts around 500 migrants and refugees from more than 20 countries.

Like other small towns across Italy, it has witnessed the massive flight of young people in recent decades, who left looking for economic opportunities elsewhere.

Lucano’s model gained international attention at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015 and he made Fortune Magazine’s 50 greatest leaders list in 2016.

Refugees and migrants in Italy are usually hosted in reception centres, most of them privately run but publicly funded, with strict rules and timetables guests have to follow.

These rules and the centres’ locations, often far from city centres, have made it difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to integrate and hold down a job.

In Riace, they have been given homes left empty by former residents. They also have the opportunity to work through a programme that has created employment among both refugees and locals – the first focused on cultural mediation and local craftsmanship and the second on language teaching.

‘Civil disobedience’

Authorities wiretapped a conversation between the mayor and his partner where he talked about ways to help a Nigerian woman who had been denied a stay permit three times.

In a Facebook post after Lucano’s arrest on Tuesday, [anti-mafia, anti-Salvini, pro-Lucano author Roberto] Saviano wrote: “the goal of Mimmo [Domenico] Lucano’s actions is not profit, but civil disobedience.”

“Civil disobedience: this is the only weapon we have to defend not only the rights of migrants, but everyone’s”, argued the author, concluding that the investigation is “the first step towards Italy’s definitive transformation from democracy to an authoritarian state.”

A number of civil society organisations have expressed concern about the arrest, which they see as yet another attack by a government that has built its popularity partly on anti-migrant rhetoric.

“It started with NGOs saving lives at sea. Now it’s the turn of those who do it on land“, wrote Naples-based anti-racism group Associazione 3 Febbraio in a statement calling for solidarity with the mayor.

For Leonardo Neglia, the mayor of Petralia Sottana, a town near Palermo with less than 3,000 residents, Lucano’s reception model is one to replicate.

Neglia had considered starting a similar project in Petralia Sottana, although the idea has been put on hold after the government’s ‘migration and security’ decree.

“Beyond technical and juridical considerations, I think his reception model should be recreated in other municipalities,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We were looking for people who would be willing to make their empty homes in the city centre available for the project. There are many, due to the depopulation of our towns as many young people leave, creating a vicious circle of impoverishment”, Neglia added.

“But this [arrest] sends a message that times have changed.”

The arrest, according to British daily The Guardian:

the suspension by the public broadcaster, Rai, of a TV show about Riace, which had been lauded as an exemplary model for integration. …

Lucano received a show of support on his Facebook page, with Riace locals calling on each other to rally together in solidarity.

10 thoughts on “Italian right-wing regime arrests mayor for anti-racism

  1. ITALY’S Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was in hot water today after a social media attack on Riace mayor Domenico Lucano backfired.

    Mr Lucano, whose project welcoming refugees to the Calabrian town to revive its economy has made him famous throughout Italy, was arrested last week on charges of aiding illegal migration.

    His arrest prompted a demonstration by thousands in his defence at the weekend, but the interior minister hit back with a Facebook video purporting to show what “ordinary” citizens of Riace thought of their mayor.

    The video shows a man railing at Mr Lucano for squandering the municipality’s resources on helping refugees and having “abandoned” local families — but Italian journalists were quick to spot that the presumed ordinary citizen was in fact an underworld crime boss.

    Journalist Giulio Cavalli pointed out that it was Pietro Domenico Zucco, who was arrested in 2011 as a figurehead of the ’ndrangheta working for the Ruga-Metastasio clan.

    The ’ndrangheta is Calabria’s equivalent to the more famous mafia of Sicily. Europol assesses the organisation as “among the richest and most powerful organised crime groups at a global level” and a US assessment from 2010 concluded its drug-trafficking, extortion and money-laundering activities accounted for 3 per cent of Italian GDP.

    The gaffe is likely to embolden defenders of Mr Lucano, whose refugee-welcoming programme involved contacting absentee owners of properties in the village of Riace — which, like many in rural Italy, was struggling as young people have emigrated due to the country’s lack of jobs and investment — and getting their permission to house refugees in them and train them to carry out needed work in the area. It began in 1998, when 200 Kurds arrived on a nearby beach and were welcomed by locals.

    Saturday’s huge demonstration was led by refugees who live and work in Riace but was bolstered by supporters from across Italy.

    Mr Salvini has pledged to prevent refugees from landing in Italy and vowed to deport half a million people.

    Arresting Mr Lucano is one of a number of signals of his determination to push Italy to the right, which have included refusing to allow refugees’ rescue boats to dock in Italy; refusing to condemn the murder of Calabrian trade unionist Soumaila Sacko, who was working to improve conditions for African day labourers; and ordering his ministry to produce a register of the country’s Roma population with an eye to deporting as many as possible.


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