On an early morning in July 1998, a sailing ship with 250 Kurdish refugees landed on the beach of the little Calabrian village Riace. Domenico Lucano, back then a chemistry teacher, was one of those who took care of the exhausted people immediately. And he had an idea: Why not save each other?
Due to emigration, the village had already lost half of its inhabitants and many houses were empty. It was only a question of time when the village had to be given up – like so many in poor Calabria already. “But hope came with the refugees”, says Lucano. Hope for both sides, for the emigrants and inhabitants of Riace. The Kurdish refugees were the first to be accommodated in the abandoned houses of Riace. In 1999, Lucano, together with friend, founded the “Citta Futura” to realise his idea of rebuilding this village and living there together. In 2004, Lucano became Riace’s major for the first time. He did not belong to any party and started out with his own agenda: A different Riace. Lucano applied for a special permission to take in refugees unbureaucratically, and received it. On top of that, the state pays subsidies for each refugee.
The money is spent on pocket money for the newcomers, for the renovation of the houses, for school, for kindergarten and the workshops in which migrants and locals work side by side. Jobs were created for both Italians and migrants. Citta Futura became the biggest employer in the village. Domenico Lucano speaks of the “Utopia of Normality” which should be exemplified in Riace. That normality, which concedes all humans equally the right to a future. That normality, according to which humanity should be top priority in dealing with those who fled war and poverty. Upper limits are not discussed in Riace. From currently 1800 inhabitants, 550 came as refugees.
So far, 150 of the formerly abandoned houses have been rebuilt together. Refugees from more than twenty countries live in them. Domenico Lucano calls the Riace project the “Global Village”. It’s his personal cause to exemplify on a small scale what could be possible on an even larger scale. Several EU politicians have already visited Riace in order to study this model. Meanwhile, journalists from all over the world arrive in Riace to report about this most exceptional integration project.