The biggest issue in Italian politics this week is the approval of a bill on ‘ birthright citizenship’, the so-called principle of “jus soli”, which determines access to Italian citizenship. The bill has triggered an intense debate.. Before, children born in Italy to foreign parents did not automatically receive Italian citizenship upon birth: they were allowed to apply for citizenship at the age of 18 under very specific criteria. Only children with at least one Italian parent were automatically conferred citizenship at birth (the so-called, right of blood, or “ius sanguinis”, principle).
The new bill passed by the Italian Parliament introduces a softer form of “ius soli”. Jus soli, in its most pure form, as practiced in countries like the U.S or Argentina, automatically confers citizenship upon every person born on its soil. The ‘soft version’ passed in Italy extends Italian citizenship to every child born in Italy from at least one parent who has a long term residency permit (or a permanent residency permit for parents who are nationals of another EU country).
The new bill also introduces the so called, ‘right of culture’, or “ius culturae”, principle, according to which children born in Italy by foreign parents, or arrived in Italy before the age of 12, can obtain Italian citizenship after they have attended at least 5 years of schooling in an Italian educational institution (elementary school or middle school). According to a study carried by Fondazione Leone Moressa, 800,000 children will be potentially eligible for Italian citizenship (their parents must submit an official request on their behalf) with an additional 45,000 to 50,000 each year in the future.
The introduction of the ius soli law triggered an intense debate as the right wing’s main parties, Lega Nord and Fratelli d’Italia vehemently opposed the bill, even during Parliamentarydebate. The reaction was also quite strong outside the Parliament, where the neo-fascist movement CasaPound tried to break a police blocade that had been set up around the Parliament in order to enter the building. According to critics of ius soli, citizenship should be rooted in cultural identity and access of children born of foreign parents to citizenship would undermine “Italian identity”.
On the other hand, the Democratic Party, which promoted the bill with the current government and Left parties Articolo 1, Sinistra Italiana and Possibile, strongly backed the bill arguing that it is an important step toward the recognition of citizenship for children who are 100% Italian. The Italian government also argued that access to citizenship for immigrants’ children will facilitate their integration into Italian society helping prevent the risk of radicalization within the immigrant population.