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September 14, 2021
Social Justice


Insight by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective

Yet it would be enough to enter a class of any school to notice it. To realize that Italy has changed but its laws have not. In front of us we would find thousands of children and young people, sons and daughters of immigrants who, despite attending schools with their italian companions, are not citizens like them. If they were born in Italy, they will have to wait until they are eighteen, without even having the certainty of becoming one. If they arrived here as children, they cannot enjoy the same rights as those born in our country.

The law that currently regulates how to become an italian citizen envisages a system that is typically oriented towards the acquisition of citizenship by blood, i. e. by birth from an italian parent. The most recent law on citizenship, introduced in 1992, establishes a single method of acquisition called ius sanguinis (from the latin, 'right of blood'): a child is italian if at least one of the parents is italian. A child born of foreign parents, even if born on italian territory, can only apply for citizenship after reaching the age of 18 and only if he or she has lived in iItaly "legally and continuously" until then.

This requirement is not always easy to prove due to the precarious life of some families or the irregular situation on the territory (even for a short period). Moreover, applicants only have one year to submit the documentation and this can also represent an obstacle. This law has long been considered defective: it excludes tens of thousands of children born and raised in Italy from citizenship and its benefits and ties their condition to that of their parents (whose residence permit may expire in the meantime, forcing the whole family to leave the country).

So it doesn't matter if you grew up in Milan, Rome, Palermo or a small town in the inner regions of Italy. It does not matter whether you attended italian schools and grew up here all your life. In Italy today, a child acquires citizenship only if he or she is the child of an italian father or mother. This is what Kwanza Musi Dos Santos, 28 years old, diversity management consultant, activist and co-founder of the association "This is Rome - Questa è Roma" calls "systemic racism".

"In Italy racism is systemic but we still describe it as being linked to single episodes. In reality, it is sufficient to look at the citizenship law, still tied to blood. Or the access to work, to scholarships, to the academy, to institutions, to the police force. How difficult is it for a son or daughter of foreigners to gain access to them? ". The cultural and sports association founded by Dos Santos works to marginalise all forms of discrimination through art, recreation and culture. It is made up of boys and girls from different countries and socio-cultural backgrounds. Artists, writers, actors, journalists, activists, workers and students, born and/or raised in rome by foreign parents. They have come together to create a movement that includes everyone regardless of their origins, gender, religious beliefs and economic and social conditions. Romans, new romans and romans by choice, who have decided to build their future in Rome and in Italy.

Since 2016, Italians without citizenship, a movement of sons and daughters of immigrants who grew up in Italy, has also been engaged in a political and cultural battle for the reform of the citizenship law, which would cancel the ius sanguinis and introduce the so-called ius culturae and the tempered ius soli in Italy. The current law, in fact, is an old-born law that does not reflect today's italian society, made up of women, men, girls and children who live in Italy and have a heterogeneous, plural and intercultural personal and family history.

"After 20 years in Italy we still have to ask permission to stay in the country we consider home. Without citizenship we don't exist: we can't vote, we can't freely choose what jobs to do and we lose a lot of opportunities to study abroad", said Jovana Kuzman, one of the spokespeople of the Italians Without Citizenship movement on the stage of the Stati Popolari in Rome in July 2020.

But how many students are living without this right? According to data published by MIUR for the 2018/2019 school year, pupils in italian schools without this right are more than 860 thousand while foreigners resident in Italy under 18, would be one million and 40 thousand at the beginning of 2018 according to ISTAT. It is clear that young children of foreign nationals are now an important component of the italian society.

But what does it mean not having citizenship?

Not having citizenship means not being able to go on school trips or language exchanges abroad because you cannot get a visa, as you have passports from other non-EU Countries. It means missing school days to go to the police station to renew your residence permit. It means not being able to participate in public competitions that are often open only to those who have citizenship. It means not being able to participate in activities with peers, such as sports. As explained by Tam Tam Basketball, a basketball team made up of children of foreigners, born and raised in Castelvolturno, basketball teams with more than two foreign citizens cannot participate in FIP national championships.

In short, not having the citizenship, means having fewer rights than others and being considered second-class citizens. It means living a life in the balance, made up of fewer possibilities, uncertainties and the impossibility of determining one's own future.

Once again, it is politics that lags behind society. It would be enough to enter a classroom in any italian school to realise this.

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