For the people of Riace, the Summer of 2017 has become a turning point. A historical juncture that could define the future existence of what has become, in the eyes of the international public, an extraordinary experiment of migrant-integration.
The project of migrant-integration of Riace was born back in 2001, out of a “simple” stroke of genius: let’s try to make something positive out of a negative scenario, that is, a declining population growth.
It was such a simple principle that pushed the local administration of Riace to let migrants take the place of former Italian inhabitants of its village. As a result, Riace was able to keep basic social and education services running. The local economy flourished. Likewise, thanks to its social activities, Riace was able to offset the long-lasting isolation of the region Locride and to affirm itself as one of the most precious projects of migrant integration worldwide.
Riace has become an exemplary integration project, the lessons of which have been applied in serval other locations in Calabria and across Italy. At the same time, Riace has always been welcoming migrants in the frame of humanitarian emergency operations conducted at the national and regional level. In turn, the Italian network of Solidar Municipalities has backed the Riace project since day one. Several public initiatives have been organised over the past years, such as the “riaceinfestival” festival, an event meant to share the results of the experiment at a national and global level.
The “social revolution” set in place by the major of Riace, Domenico Lucano, and by all social operators who have been active in town, helped to raise the public image of the State region Calabria and bears symbolic significance for Italy, as a whole.
Nevertheless, some legislative measures made it possible for Riace to become a worldwide experiment of positive migrant-integration. More specifically, two tools have been key to keep the experiment running, over the past 16 years.
In the first place, by means of the so called “bonuses” the purchasing power of migrant families was strengthened. The “bonuses” put in place a sort of limited currency system, based on “reciprocal trust” among local economic actors. Thanks to these “bonuses” it has been possible to offset the negative implications linked to the constant delays of the public administration.
Secondarily, the activity of the local economy was fostered by so called “working scholarships”, a direct tool that helped migrants find job opportunities in the artisanal sector and that triggered social cohesion among a diversified population.
These two fundamental tools are now in danger. They risk being shut-down under the diktat of legislators.
In this Summer of 2017, Italian and international public authorities seem to conduct several attacks against humanitarian actors and NGOs across land and sea. But Riace keeps being a sign of hope.
Riace deserves a future because it means so much not only to the people of Calabria and of Locride, but to all of us.
We therefore call for public support so that humanitarian actions can take the lead over burocracy.
We call for the national Government, for Interior ministry and the regional and provincial authorities to confirm the financial means provided over the past years to Riace.
An update of the persons who signed the petition can be found on comunisolidali.org