In Laterza, in the province of Taranto, all children aged 0 to 18 who are children of foreigners are honorary citizens. Thirty-three children are therefore, symbolically, Italian citizens, and the number is provisional, because citizenship will also be extended to future children. All this thanks to a resolution that reads as follows: «Boys and girls of foreign origin, born and raised in Italy, are our present and our future. Even without Italian citizenship, these boys and girls attend our schools, speak our language, know our history, participate in social, recreational and sporting activities in our area. They are Italian citizens and de facto Laertini and, as a sign of recognition of their value for our community, we are giving them this important, highly symbolic honor”.
There decides municipal no. 18 of 27 April 2023, proposed by councilor Angela Masi, was voted unanimously. Also from the Brothers of Italy, whose thoughts on the subject were well summarized by the Minister of Agriculture Francesco Lollobrigida in his speech on “ethnicity” to be protected from “substitution”.
Agostino Perrone, minority councilor of FdI, wanted a commission to be formed specifically to decide the criteria by which citizenship was to be assigned and then voted with serenity. “Someone complained, but for me children are all the same,” he explains to TPI. «I have not received calls from the party, I know they have a different line from this on citizenship, but I have to look to the good of the Municipality where I was elected. Even if it is the first party in Italy, I don’t care. I can also be in the bottom party, but I have to vote serenely and honestly».
However, the resolution did not come at a random moment. As explained by the councilor in charge of Integration of Peoples and Equal Opportunities, Angela Masi: «It is clear that Law 91 of 1992 is no longer adequate for the needs of the country and its new citizens. Right now there are about a million young people of foreign origin born in Italy or arrived as children, who are waiting for their right to be Italian and Italian to be recognized. The alarming data recently published by Istat on the birth rate impose this on us. We need to give certainties and a life perspective to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in precariousness, and precariousness, we know it, hinders integration, freedoms and people’s dignity”.
It is not a new initiative. In 2012/13, Unicef had already launched “Children-Friendly City”, inviting Italian municipalities, also with the support of the Presidency of the Republic, to grant citizenship to boys and girls who are children of foreigners. An initiative aimed at approving the popular law proposal (later in Parliament in 2015), at the request and initiative of associations and civil society subjects which at the time collected over 200 thousand signatures.
In the same spirit, the mayor of the centre-left coalition Francesco Frigiola made this proposal his own. “It is an act of social justice, a signal to say to Puglia but also to Italy:” Let’s move “”, he explained to TPI. «My administration sees Laterza as a welcoming and inclusive city. It hurts to see 16 or 17 year olds who speak dialect and live the traditions of Laterza like Laertini, but are treated like guests. When I give citizenship to those who become Italian, I give away the flag and the Constitution, and the children embrace the tricolor, and the families cry: it’s incredible that people who feel so strongly that they belong to a nation are not part of it». For Mayor Frigiola, honorary citizenship «is not a provocation, but the acquisition of a fact. Is it possible that after 17 years one is a foreigner in the country where he was born?».
An example for all
Given these premises and in order not to let our guard down on such an important issue, the Municipality of Laterza has decided to take up the Unicef initiative and be an example for the other municipalities. «The fact that the reform attempt of 2022 which, even if incomplete, opened up to the Jus Culturae and therefore to citizenship already starting from the completion of the twelfth year of age and at the end of the cycle of studies, and considering the closing positions and disinterest in the question of government, we have to have our say as local administrations».
“It’s a law that’s already old,” explains Masi. «The 1992 law looked more at the possibility of recognizing those with Italian relatives the possibility of obtaining Italian citizenship, in the hope that one day they could return to their homeland. If a foreign citizen is born in Italy, he must wait until he is 18 before being able to apply for citizenship. It’s not enough to grow up here, attend school, cultivate friendships and affections and speak and write Italian». «Since the 1980s», continues the councilwoman, «statistics and demographic data have begun to show a negative balance between those who emigrated and those who immigrated. In 1991, a few months before the current citizenship law was approved, the ship Vlora arrived in the port of Bari and was telling us that something was about to change, but the politicians didn’t care about it».
On the other hand, if the phrase “Europe asks us” works for many issues, one should consider that the 1997 European Convention on Nationality provides that “each State facilitates the acquisition of citizenship for people born in the territory legally and habitually domiciled”. “Perhaps the other governments have failed, but they tried,” continues Masi. “This legislature does not want to deal with it, the question is not really part of the programs”. Instead it should, also because the change has already been underway for some time, civil society draws a different reality from the emergency with respect to which we should be concerned about the loss of Italian culture.
«The resolution», explains the councilor again, «comes from a fundamental premise: immigration in Italy is structural. We are in the third generation of migrants. How can one million and 300 thousand people who are not legally Italian and are treated as foreigners still be a problem? How far away from us is the thought that those with black skin or almond-shaped eyes can be Italian? It is a huge obstacle but it must be overcome. Starting, for example, from the school and from the innermost and most peripheral areas of the country, through the funds of the Pnrr. May it become customary in schools to have personalized menus for boys and girls of different faiths and an alternative to teaching the Catholic religion. Let’s start with the recognition of rights, it is a task that belongs to us, to politics and its institutions”.
And he concludes with a consideration: «Khaby Lame was a son of foreigners, who arrived in Italy very young, with a regular residence permit. When his irony made him one of the most famous TikTokers in the world, he was granted Italian citizenship, essentially mocking the hundreds of thousands of people who are in the same condition and who, however, are not famous and do not serve to make the show spectacular. Village. Instead, they have to wait for the bureaucracy to take its course”.
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