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Guisi Nicolini
Mayor of Lampedusa, Italy
Awarded fourth place in World Mayor 2016

14 February 2017: Guisy Nicolini has been Mayor of Lampedusa & Linosa (population 6,500) since May 2012. In November 2012, after only six months in office, the Mayor of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa sent an urgent appeal to Europe’s leaders in Brussels. Introducing herself, she expressed her outrage that the European Union, which had just received the Nobel Peace Prize, ignored the tragedies that were occurring at its Mediterranean borders.

Giusy Nicolini, now 53, is known in Lampedusa as the Lioness and admired for her humanity, courage and determination. After she became Deputy Mayor at the age 23, she made a name for herself as a committed environmentalist who was not afraid to fight Mafia interests. It was due to her determination that the Island’s famous Rabbit Beach (Isola dei Conigli) was saved from illegal development and has become a nature reserve that also offers access to bathers.

The year 2017, started with new tragedies. In the night of 14 January, 61 people landed from nowhere: 14 women, 4 children and 3 bodies. The survivors were all extremely exhausted, seriously ill and totally confused. A pregnant woman was immediately flown by helicopter to the Palermo hospital. A few hours later, in the morning of 15 January, another 60 migrants landed on the island, all young people and fortunately alive. Later the same day, some 140 more people were brought ashore in Lampedusa, rescued by a merchant ship, miraculously all had survived despite the atrocious weather.

When asked about the future of her Island, Mayor Nicolini quotes Pope Francis. “Lampedusa is the door to Europe not its exit.” She wants her community to be given the same facilities and be offered the same opportunities as those enjoyed by people on the Italian mainland. “We do not want to be treated as a border outpost.” She demands modern ships that do not take 10 hours to travel the 120 kilometres to Sicily. The mayor also suggests the building of desalination plants, which would save the country a considerable amount of money. At present, water arrives by tankers but it is undrinkable. “People are forced to drink water from plastic bottles for which there are no recycling facilities.”

Typical tribute:
At a time of rampant nationalism and chauvinism the people of Lampedusa, and the personal efforts of her Mayor, stand out as a splendid example of altruism and generosity. They are a reminder that there is a version of humanity which is much better than the one popularized by some sectors of the media. In his play Antigone Sophocles asks which law is greater, the gods’ or man’s; the example set by Lampedusa demands that in devising our migration laws we should make sure that the moral imperative of one does not come into conflict with the cold, rational character of the other. MORE

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