Guilty of humanity -- the mayor of a town that welcomed migrants is under arrest

On October 2, Domenico Lucano, mayor of the Calabrian city of Riace, which is considered a model of successful migrant integration, was arrested for aiding illegal migration. Italy is split between his supporters and detractors.

Ingrid Colanicchia
Ingrid Colanicchia MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Guilty of humanity -- the mayor of a town that welcomed migrants is under arrest - NewsMavens
Domenico Lucano, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The Riace case is on everyone's lips. There are those who support the mayor and believe that, if he has bent the rules to allow foreign women to remain in Italy, the end justifies the means. There are also those who rejoice because they are convinced that migrants are now a threat to Italy.

No matter what the court will rule, what is certain is that this arrest is a boon for politicians who considered Riace a thorn in their side because it disproves the dominant narrative that presents migrants as a problem. In fact, the Riace model demonstrates the exact opposite: it shows that integration is not "only" the best answer to migratory flows but also a possible solution to some of the problems that afflict our country, like the depopulation crisis in rural communities.

Over the last 20 years Riace has been reborn.

The population has more than doubled, reaching 2,000 people. The city welcomed about 400 foreigners, and the remaining newcomers are Italian citizens who have chosen to return to a village now vibrant again thanks to migrant integration.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said that the mayor of Riace, Domenico Lucano, was "a zero". But quite the opposite, he is the symbol of a different world -- utopia within reach.

Details from the story:

  • On October 2, the mayor of Riace, Domenico Lucano, was arrested by the Guardia di Finanza and placed under house arrest.
  • Two accusations are being made against Lucano: that he organized, with Tesfahun Lemlem, "marriages of convenience" between citizens and foreign women so the latter could stay in Italy; and that he violated tender regulations by assigning waste collection to two social cooperatives of Riace to give work to migrants (the most serious charges against him, initially put forth by the Locri prosecutor's office, have been disproved).
  • The Riace integration model is studied in many parts of the world. Lucano has been its mayor since 2004. In 2016, Fortune magazine has included him in the list of the 50 most influential people in the world.
  • The Riace model made its debut in the late nineties, after 184 Kurds of Iraqi and Turkish nationality were transferred to Riace in a shelter offered by the Curia.
  • The following year Lucano founded the association "Città Futura -- Giuseppe Puglisi" with the intention of transforming Riace into a welcoming city where migrants are considered a resource and an opportunity to revitalize a dying village due to depopulation.
  • On October 6, thousands of people from all over Italy marched through the streets of Riace to show their support for Lucano. On the same days an international mobilization campaign began, which can be joined by writing to

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at