‘They are our salvation’: the Sicilian town revived by refugees

19.03.2018 11:28

Since 2014, Sutera has augmented its fast-dwindling population with dozens of asylum seekers. The school has been reborn; the butcher and grocer are happy with the growth in turnover; the birthrate has rocketed.

“In the 1970s, Sutera had more than 5,000 inhabitants,” the mayor of the town, Giuseppe Grizzanti, tells the Guardian. “By the 1980s we were 4,000, and 3,000 in the 90s. Every year Sutera lost 300 citizens, due to unemployment. The houses emptied, the shops closed and [we] risked becoming a ghost town.”

Sutera comes from the ancient Greek soter, meaning “salvation”. Tucked into the slopes of a remote mountain, it made an ideal refuge during times of war. Now that ancient purpose is being revived.