In the late ‘90s the medieval historical town of Riace was about to die. Inhabited only by old people living by their pensions, the beautiful town was left without any kind of economy whatsoever. In 1998, an unexpected event changed the course of history of the entire town. A boat filled with Kurdish migrants landed in the nearby beach, in the community of Riace marina. The most of migrants stayed for short time in Riace, traveling to the North of Europe in search of luck, but few remained, including Bahram Acar, who saw in the mountains of Riace a familiar place, reminding him the Kurdish plateau he grew up around. Domenico Luciano, a long-time activist and citizen of Riace, was deeply moved by the happening. Together with a group of activists-friends, he started dreaming about a different concept of town, where welcoming would replace rejections and where solidarity would replace prejudices and hostility. After an early defeat, he was voted as major of the town, and during his three-years administrations he changed the face of Riace. He was able to obtain for the past 10 years a funding program by the Italian government supporting with 30 euros a day the 400 migrants of the 2000 people town. The migrants were given many of the houses that were left abandoned due to the migrations of many young locals to the cities of Northern Italy and abroad, thus giving new lymph to the local economy. A symbolic currency was created to limit the welcomed migrants to spend their bonus only on the town.About 65 local people were employed in jobs such as copper and glass laboratories, farming and breeding, constructions and education, where they work side-by-side with migrants. Many locals support the major and never had any problem with any of the migrants, although some locals fear that they could outnumbered their presence in the town. But for the people as the mayor Domenico Lucano this city is already a dream of solidarity and for the fortress Europe, Riace has already became an example of integration from where to learn from.

“I left Riace 20 years ago and I moved to Stuttgart, in Germany. Now I live there with my wife and my two kids and I come back to Riace every summer, where my mother she’s still living.

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“In 1998 I left from Istanbul with a group of almost 200 people, mainly Turkish and Iraqi Kurds, on 35x13 meters boat. We traveled toward Italy but we didn’t really know where we were going. At four in the morning, when it was still dark, we landed in Riace. Most of the people who traveled with me waited in town just enough to receive their paper and to continue their journeys toward the north of Europe. Some people stayed for about 6 months. One man stayed for almost three years. I didn’t move since I arrived. I looked the mountains and felt I was in a “second Kurdistan”, the air and the geography felt familiar. I wanted to work and I did a lot of professions, such as carpenter, bricklayer, blacksmith. I could only find jobs for short periods, so I learned to do everything. Since 2000 I have been working with the project funded by the Italian government. The mayor Domenico Luciano helped me a lot. He found me a home where I could stay without having a rent to pay, he got me a job and he always showed solidarity toward me and the Kurdish issue in general. That’s why I am very grateful to him."

Domenico Lucano, mayor

“I have been an activist and a member of Autonomia Operaia when I was studying in Rome. I always wanted to come back to my home town to live and work. In 1995, together with a group of comrades, we participated in the local elections. We lost, but we were able to give new lymph to the idealism we had in the past and we had partially lost with the fall of the utopias. I always believed that my dreams weren’t over. I couldn’t imagine how life could be, and which sense it could make, once the dream was over. My personal private life never really fulfilled me. I loved many women and I have been married for long time with the mother of my three children. However, my mind was always focused on politics, world issues and collective life. I gave always more importance to social values than to my private life and to the private property. My political engagement was not beneficial for my children. When in 1998 one boat, with about 200 Kurds, reached the shore of Riace, our community was very weak. Most of the younger people had left to work in the North. The hired men of our mountains became the factory workers of the most industrialised cities. Riace has always been a place of migration, but usually people were leaving the town in search of opportunities elsewhere. None would ever imagined that a boat would reach our shores and to become a destination place for migrants. Now I am the mayor of Riace. It is my third term. Out of 1800 people living in town, 400 of them are migrants. They come from over 20 nations. Migrations has created new human energies which are saving our town from secure death. The school has re-started and many shops succeed to stay open. In Riace, welcoming migrants is now convenient for everybody. The migrants can stay here and build human relations, the local economy is saved and the city has now become an example of integration. We have now tourists coming, attracted by the multi-ethnic society. We are practicing the tourism of reception and acceptance. Journalists, anthropologists and all sort of social scientist are coming here to look at our experiment. I am proud of what we have been doing. This is the example of the cities of the future. The real integration is inside of us.

Hare Gu

“I arrived in Italy in 2013. Since about seven months I am working in Riace, thank to the municipality’s project. l left Eritrea by myself for fear of the militaries. With 1000 euro I traveled from Sudan to Lybia through the desert and with 2000 from Libya to Italy through the Mediterranean. Someone has paid for me and now I am working to give back the money I have borrowed, but it is not easy, since I have to send money to my son who is temporarily living with my sister in Ethiopia. I am trying to bring him here. Before coming to Europe, I thought I could make money in an easier way, but I realised that it is very difficult. In Riace I gain 600 euro per month working on the copper and glass laboratory. I am happy about that and I will definitely stay here for long if I can continue working.

Maria

“I was born in Riace and I am one of the few young locals that managed to stay in town instead of leaving. I am now working with Hare Gu in the copper and glass laboratory and I am very happy about that. By working with her I am learning a lot of things that you might not believe, until you hear them directly from someone who experienced them."

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