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MIGRANT-FRIENDLY Italian mayor Domenico Lucano was arrested today for alleged involvement in organising “marriages of convenience” for immigration purposes.
Mr Lucano, who is known for welcoming migrants to the southern Italian town of Riace, was placed under house arrest. He is also accused of awarding a rubbish collection contract without going through the correct process.
The charges coincide with far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini introducing tough anti-immigration measures, including the establishment of detention centres across the country, as promised during last winter’s election campaign.
His decision to close Italian ports to migrant ships has caused international outrage and sparked a clash in June between Italy’s government and Spanish authorities over the fate of 629 people on humanitarian rescue boat the Aquarius.
Mr Lucano instigated a programme which enabled migrants to settle in his village, giving them abandoned homes and employment with training in a bid to boost the economy.
The scheme was hailed as a model of integration and hundreds of migrants benefited from it. Mr Lucano was named one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine in 2016.
Police claimed to have tapped the mayor’s phone and to have heard him suggesting marriage as a solution to a woman’s immigration problems.
In addition, a municipal waste collection contract is alleged to have been given to two community co-operatives established “to provide work for the people of Riace and migrants” without the correct tendering process being followed.
The main charge of mismanagement of public funds has been dropped due to a lack of evidence. Mr Lucano had not reacted to his arrest by the time the Star went to press.
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