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Italian mayor ousted after his migrant integration scheme implodes

Former mayor Domenico “Mimmo” Lucano of Riace in southern Italy's rural Calabria, has been ousted from his position by Lega supporters after his experiment in welcoming migrants failed miserably.

Published: June 10, 2019, 11:28 am

    Riace

    He had encouraged migrants to settle in his village to counter a gradual demographic decline of inhabitants in a show of how migrant integration could be a success.

    But now he is no longer even a member of the town council after leftists lost in the elections. Lucano himself has been barred from the town, reported AFP. In 2010, Lucano had come second runner-up for the World Mayor competition.

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

    The disgraced mayor is due in court next week to face corruption charges including that he failed to put a rubbish collection contract to tender. The lucratice contract had simply been given to a migrant-linked cooperative.

    Last year already, Lucano was placed under house arrest for allegedly setting up fake marriages to help foreign women stay in the country after their asylum applications were rejected. Lucano’s companion, Tesfahun Lemlem, is also under investigation and may lose her Italian residency.

    But before his fall from grace, German director Wim Wenders made a documentary in 2010 featuring the leftist mayor and Riace’s migrants.

    The town had taken in around 6 000 migrants, opened shops and workshops and even launched its own currency stamped with the heads of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. “But that model of tolerance and inclusion has disappeared,” according to AFP.

    “Almost everyone has gone. There aren’t even any more children,” said Daniel, a 37-year-old Ghanaian.

    The “Riace reborn” list, backed by Matteo Salvini’s Lega, provided many of votes for the winning 41.8 percent during the election.

    “Here, we need order and discipline,” said agricultural engineer Claudio Falchi, who three years ago became Lega leader in the small town. “It’s not racism, it’s just that this is our home. We welcome them and then they make problems,” he added.

    “They were fighting among themselves, they didn’t want the crucifix, or the creche,” Falchi said of the migrants.

    The town is notable as the place where the Bronzi di Riace (Riace bronzes), bronze statues of warriors, were found in the sea in 1972. These Ancient Greek sculptures can be seen in the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia.

    On the southern island of Lampedusa, where many illegals arrive, the Lega won more than 45 percent of votes.

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