The Riace model -- An answer to Chemnitz

These last years, Riace, a small Calabrian town, has been experimenting with a model of integration that disproves every racist argument in the migration debate. And it is no coincidence that this model is constantly under threat.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
The Riace model -- An answer to Chemnitz - NewsMavens
Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The dominant narrative these days features two factions. On one hand, you have "angry" and "concerned" citizens who worry about their own situation and turn their rage against migrants, and on the other you have Good Samaritans who want to welcome everyone and are completely out of touch with the problems of the majority. 

But this is a profoundly distorted version of reality, and one that the town of Riace negates. In Riace, integration is not a discussion topic, it's a practical endeavor. 

Integration is not a "mere" act of solidarity, it's a strategy to revive a village that was literally dying.  

Thanks to this policy, the town is reborn, the school was brought back from the brink of closure, new trades and crafts that were disappearing have been revived, and new shops are now profiting the local economy.

But the Riace model is threatened, and the funds that financed it have been discontinued. Only a mass intervention from influential public personalities, including Roberto Saviano, has prevented it from being shut down entirely. 

The village is the answer to those who make the dangerous claim that granting rights to some encroaches on the rights of others. Riace demonstrates the opposite: intelligent integration -- that is, providing a specific path of integration in a relatively short time -- benefits everyone. And maybe this is precisely why the project bothered so many people -- because it works.

Details from the story:

  • In 1998, two hundred refugees from Kurdistan arrived in Riace. The migrants were welcomed into houses abandoned by people who had emigrated.
  • Since 2004, thanks to mayor Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano, the model has become official and the city is housing thousands of asylum seekers from twenty different nations in independent apartments, integrating them into the city's cultural fabric and welcoming them into the working community.
  • The measure also brought relief to the town school, which risked being closed down.
  • In 2016, Riace mayor Lucano was included by Fortune magazine among the 50 most influential leaders in the world.
  • A few months ago Lucano was criticized by interior minister Matteo Salvini: "I don't give half a thought to the mayor of Riace. Zero, he's a zero."
  • The "Riace model" was in danger of ceasing because its funding was discontinued.
  • After widespread mobilization, it now seems the funding will continue. Among others, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau and influential journalist Roberto Saviano have spoken out in favor of the Riace model.
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