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  • The Riace's suspended mayor Domenico Lucano in Rome, Italy, January 30, 2019.

    The Riace's suspended mayor Domenico Lucano in Rome, Italy, January 30, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 5 September 2019

Domenico Lucano was forbidden to live in Riace, a small city which allowed 450 refugees to settle in its territory.

A Calabria court on Thursday revoked the ban which prevented Mayor Domenico Lucano from residing in Riace, an Italian coastal town which has been challenging xenophobic attitudes for decades.

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"I feel happy. I will return immediately to Riace to see my father again," Lucano said after hearing the decision.

“Mimmo” Lucano, who became major of Riace in 2004, began to acquire public notoriety when a ship carrying 220 Kurdish people reached his town in 1998.​​​​​ He and his friends opened their houses to the refugees.

These human rights defenders were imitating, as Civil Space Watch recalled, “the experience of Badolato, a small town that found new life thanks to migrants and NGOs" which helped to rehabilitate abandoned houses.

Since then Riace's actions became “a dangerous model for recent Italian governments, which have built consensus and electoral success on the basis of a campaign of fear, hatred, disinformation and demonization of migrants as invaders,” human rights agency Pressenza commented​​​​.

On Oct. 2018, the Italian police arrested Lucano and accused him of helping illegal migration by organizing “marriages of convenience."

"Mimmo Lucano can return to Riace, to his home, to hug his father. A few minutes ago the Locri Court revoked the restrictive measure which kept him away from his country. The absurd exile is over. Good news, some humanity."

As a result, Italy’s most famous small-town mayor, whose sentimental partner is an Ethiopian person, was suspended after 15 years in his office.

"Riace represents an idea that goes against the civilization of barbarism," Lucano said and added that "we have built support for an integration that makes a difference."

When this social leader was arrested, far-right politician Matteo Salvini also said, "Damn... I wonder what all the do-gooders who want to fill Italy with immigrants are thinking now."

In the midst of the 2018 European migrant crisis, Lucano gained more attention when the Italian Interior Ministry policies redoubled the attack on his 1,800-inhabitants city, which allowed 450 refugees to settle in its territory.

Previously, however, Mimmo had already acquired international notoriety when the 2010 World Mayor competition declared him the second-best mayor of that year.

In 2017, he was also awarded the Dresden Peace Prize, a recognition previously granted to former Russian President Michail Gorbachev and war photographer James Nachtwey, among others.

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