UNESCO Peace Prize for Lampedusa Mayor Nicolini


Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini has been awarded this year’s UNESCO Peace Prize for her commitment to helping tens of thousands of boat refugees that have flooded her small island off the coast of Sicily.

She joins Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres as recipients of the honor, officially called the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Prize.

Equidistant from southern Sicily, Malta and Tunisia, the island with about 6,000 residents has found itself at the heart of Europe’s refugee crisis. As mayor, Nicolini has worked to ensure that Lampedusa deals humanely with refugees fleeing war-torn Middle Eastern countries by sea.
Mayor Nicolini
Mayor Giusi Nicolini at her office in Lampedusa.

The UN’s cultural body said Nicolini was recognized for “her boundless humanity and unwavering commitment to refugee crisis management and integration in response to the arrival of thousands of refugees”.

A co-recipient of the prestigious peace prize was migrant rescue association SOS Mediterranee run by Médecins Sans Frontières, which the UNESCO jury said has saved more than 11,000 lives since it began search and rescue missions off Lampedusa in early 2016.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 649 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean in the first three months of 2017 alone. Within the past month, 146 people drowned when a boat sank in the waters off Lampedusa, with the sole survivor a 16-year-old Ghanaian boy. Some 1,000 landed on the island over Easter weekend.

Dedicating her award in part to journalist and activist Gabriele Del Grande, currently imprisoned in Turkey after he was arrested while researching the lives of Syrian refugees, Nicolini said: “I also pledge this award to all those who did not manage to cross the sea because they ended up beneath it.”