The repeated immigrant landings in the late 90s led Mimì Lucano and others to develop a plan for the reception of foreigners which was suitable for an area sadly affected by depopulation and economic marginalisation. This is how the Riace experience began.
Over a period of fifteen years the old village was re-built and restored, weaving, pottery, glass and jam-making workshops were set up involving the local community and creating employment. The success of this model began to arouse interest both in Italy and around the world.
After a few years of autonomous growth, by becoming part of the SPRAR system the original project was distorted. On the one hand, public funding helped reduce the need for autonomous economic sustainability for integration and finding work, while on the other, public institutions, in a permanent state of emergency, put pressure on the mayor to accept ever greater numbers of immigrants. So Riace ended up with 500-600 foreigners compared to a resident population of about 1800 (the SPRAR guidelines indicate 15 foreigners in proportion to the local population in order to realise protection projects.)
Pressure from the Ministry of the Interior and the Prefecture to accept a disproportionate number of immigrants with respect to the capabilities of the village might seem a form of recognition for the excellent work carried out. However, not only did this prevent integration projects from being put into effect, it was also not accompanied by any particular alacrity to fulfil its economic responsibilities. In fact, the amounts due from the State to the Comune and local organizations were very late in arriving , often years, leading to a situation of extreme financial strain made even worse by the large numbers of immigrants.
This situation of serious economic difficulty induced reception organizations to issue a form of local currency; the Riace euro, a sort of shopping bonus in different denominations (from 5 cents to 1, 2, 10, 20, 50 and 100 euro), given to immigrants based on the amount owed by the Prefecture and the Ministry for their daily allowance. Local shopkeepers decided to accept the new currency and it began to circulate parallel to the euro.
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