Domenico Lucano, the mayor of Riace, who has been arrested on trumped-up charges that are due more to the expressed desire of Minister Salvini than to legal reasons, is not just “a symbol for welcoming refugees,” as he has often been called.
He represents a welcoming that has been put into practice, to the benefit of both newcomers to Italy and Italian citizens from regions that they were forced to abandon and emigrate to other countries.
Riace is living proof that under a good administration, both Italians and migrants can not only live well together, but actually thrive, and give new life to the local villages and abandoned lands, rebuild a community life in these places, and learn from each other in order to know, respect and value each others’ culture, traditions, customs, and also the struggle and suffering that each of us carries with them.
The extraordinary experience of Riace and its mayor should be compared side by side with the shady business of speculation around migrants taking place in the centers managed directly by the state, often under the noses of—and with the complicity of—regional authorities, and with the sheer abandonment to which hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants have been condemned, who have been denied international refugee protection and thus any right of residence.
The refugees’ and migrants’ ranks will only swell because of the recent “security decree” by Minister Salvini, without any real possibility of repatriating them to the “home” which they had to flee—an impossibility that even Salvini had to admit, after having made the promise of expelling them all the cornerstone of his campaign.
This desperate multitude, abandoned to their fate—all in the name of the slogan “Italians First”—in a country that is strange to them, left with no means to survive except begging, petty and more serious crime and prostitution, or, for the lucky ones, underpaid clandestine work, is now alarming a native population that doesn’t have any way to get to know them, to meet them halfway, or, most importantly, to plan the rebirth of our country together. But this has actually been done in Riace and in many other municipalities, and as part of many other projects that have focused on the welcoming and inclusion of “the other.”
This willful abandonment is what provides the fertile ground to exploit for Salvini and his government: they can stoke the fear of the migrant, instead of a fear of the many native-born criminals, whether carrying a gun or wearing a white collar, that are robbing us every day. It is these criminals who have caused the abandonment, degradation and depopulation of buildings, areas, neighborhoods, even entire cities, from which tens of thousands of Italian young people, often university graduates, leave every year seeking a life abroad. They are not given any opportunity to work and put their skills to use in Italy. And that is not because their jobs—which don’t exist at all—have somehow been taken away by those who are condemned to a precarious existence from day to day, such as the refugees and migrants who have had the luck to reach our country, most of them planning to reach somewhere else.
For our sake, for the sake of our country and the peaceful coexistence of all people, and for the sake of a sense of humanity that risks being stifled forever, we should all forcefully oppose the arrest of Mimmo Lucano and the blatant attempt to destroy this beautiful proof that it is possible to live together in peace.
Published by Osservatorio Solidarietà – Carta di Milano (Solidarity Observatory – Charter of Milan)
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