Here's a little film explaining a bit of what ACHR is doing
Tom is publishing this particular piece in his next news letter. But, it was sent to him by my wife who has been following this particular European story for years.Tom was so moved by it, that he is using it. In his own words,
"This little story comes from way outside ACHR's usual sphere of attention - from a tiny village in the poorest region of southern Italy, where a remarkable community-initiated and community-managed program for dealing with the huge influx of refugees from Africa and the middle east is showing new light. The story provides a big boost to those of us who spend a lot of time arguing that the poor are not a problem but a resource for the cities they live in, and that when they are treated like human beings, they can bring about great and unexpected things for everyone. The story also shows us how much local communities - even very poor ones - can do to solve big, complicated problems that their governments can't."
Lampedusa is a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, about half way between the island of Sicily and the African coast of Tunisia. Because it is part of Italy, Lampedusa has become one of the primary destinations for tens of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia trying to enter Europe. Most of them are fleeing unspeakable things: civil war, torture, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and worse. And most must sell everything they have to pay smugglers to transport them to Lampedusa, in rickety boats so overcrowded that more than 7,000 people have drowned or died of exposure and dehydration during the journey. Just last month, a boat carrying 500 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, sank off the coast of Lampedusa and at least 300 people died.
Now the Italian coast guard has a mission by the EU to rescue these people. The ones who survive are then handed over to the police and then to the health authorities (in that order) and locked up in a huge "temporary holding camp" in Lampedusa, behind barbed wire, where they languish in terrible conditions for months and months. Little by little, as their papers move through the EU bureaucracy, they are let out. Many are lured into bonded labor syndicates controlled by the mafia. Some make it to the more prosperous cities in northern Italy or to other parts of Europe. But almost everywhere they go, they face suspicion, fear, discrimination and outright hatred in countries where immigration has become a political hot potato: these are the people nobody wants. In Rome and Perugia, we saw so many of them selling flowers and trinkets to tourists - they all had such an air of desperation, I kept wondering where they sleep and how they eat?
But I just saw a documentary about a village in the impoverished Calabria Region of southern Italy, which is one of a growing number of communities in southern Italy that have been doing remarkable things for these people who nobody wants, nobody welcomes. Acquaformosa was itself an extremely poor village, in a region of Italy that has always been poor, and even now is a place where more people run away than stay. Many of Calabria's villages are dying: so depopulated that the schools are being shut down for lack of students, the shops are closing for lack of customers and the
fields are going unfarmed for lack of laborers. In Acquaformosa, for generations, the men have had to go to other countries to find work to support their families, so they have great empathy for these new refugees, and decided to take them in.
All the new children are enrolled in school, and so schools are able to stay open and the local teachers keep their jobs. It is great to see all these different colors and nationalities all in school, learning Italian. The EU provides the refugees with a small living subsidy of 20 Euros a day,
This resettlement program is being run entirely by the village itself, and it turns out to be a win-win prospect for everybody. They have pulled off an extraordinary trick: managing simultaneously to create employment, to stop a mass exodus from their village and to find a solution to the controversial issue of asylum seekers. And here is the cherry on the cake: it costs the EU just 20 Euros a day to support a refugee in Acquaformosa has set up, as opposed to 70 Euros a day to keep them in the camp in Lampedusa. Now the mayors in several other dying villages in the region are doing the same thing. For a copy of some articles about this initiative contact ACHR. Here is a link to the documentary about Acquaformosa.