Lampedusa mayor given peace prize for migrant response

Giuseppina Nicolini, Mayor of Lampedusa

 ROME--The Mayor of Lampedusa, Giuseppina Nicolini, and the French NGO, SOS Méditeranée have been awarded the prestigious UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize for saving the lives of many refugees and migrants, and to have welcomed them graciously.

“Since she was elected mayor in 2012, Nicolini stood out for her warmth and tireless work in managing the refugee crisis and ensuring their integration after thousands arrived on the shores of Lampedusa, and elsewhere in Italy,” the judges’ reasoning reads.

“SOS Méditeranée is a European association that works to assist all those in need in the Mediterranean sea,” UNESCO cites. The prize, created in 1989, is for all people, organisations or institutions that stand out in their pursuit for peace. Notable winners in the past have been François Hollande, Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.

“This prize is a great honour for me, for Lampedusa and for the Lampedusans. But above all it’s a tribute to the many victims of human trafficking in the Mediterranean,” commented Nicolini in the light of her recent award.

“At a time when there are people closing the borders and erecting walls…to be awarded a prize for these reasons makes us hope for an empathetic Europe, where humanity still exists. It’s on these principles, these values, that Europe was founded,” she added.

In response to recent comments made by politicians after the influx of refugees in the last few days she observed, “they worry about the living and not he dead. They talk about the number of people that have arrived but ignore those who didn’t make it while pursuing a dream of a better future. How can we be so cold-hearted to our brothers?”

Nicolini hopes that the recognition of their humanity will touch politicians and European citizens who will be voting in various general elections over the next few months.