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Despite the struggling in the EU to allocate refugees, the Mayor of Palermo (Italy), Leoluca Orlando, is granting citizenship to economic migrants in Sicily, complete with a festive ceremony. He sees a future in which the economy grows thanks to an unrestricted circulation of capital, information, people, goods and services.
Mayor of Palermo Leoluca Orlando, celebrated and loved for taking on the mafia, is a man with a mission. He wants mobility to be recognized as a human right. In his city, Orlando has done away with residence permits. He personally welcomes African gold-diggers arriving in the harbour. He recently visited The Hague in order to launch his approach at the first meeting of the Global Parliament of Mayors. Can one mayor make the difference?
Every year, thousands of African migrants arrive on Sicily, looking for work and a better life. They want to travel further into Europe, but the internal borders are closed. While Italy is groaning and the European Union is struggling to allocate refugees, Mayor Orlando is granting citizenship to economic migrants in Sicily, complete with a festive ceremony. He sees a future in which the economy grows thanks to an unrestricted circulation of capital, information, people, goods and services.
In his ‘Charter of Palermo’, Orlando argues that migrants are entitled to housing, work and healthcare, regardless of their legal status. In doing so, he’s going against the national policy of the ‘tyranny of the residence permit’ and using his city’s power to protect migrants.
Cross-border problems such as migration, climate change, corruption and inequality strike at the heart of many cities. While states often seem powerless and indecisive, driven mayors use their power to experiment with radical solutions to persistent problems. In his book If Mayors Ruled the World, political scientist Benjamin Barber defends mayors and makes the case for international cooperation between cities in a Global Parliament of Mayors. Recently, mayors from all over the world attended its founding in The Hague. Can mayors build a global network and restore citizens’ faith in politics?