Italy Puts Off New Citizenship Law – Will 1 Million People Ever Become Rightful Italians?

The Italian Parliament has decided against approving a new citizenship law based on jus soli, claiming there weren't the necessary votes to pass it. Now there's real risk that it will never be passed.
Over the last few months, the Italian government has been discussing relevant regulations in the direction of safeguarding and even advancing civil rights. However, most of these legal proposals have not gathered the necessary approval and have been put aside, with further examination now very unlikely to take place as the current parliamentary term is reaching its end.

Blood right

One of the most important legal proposals that has been under discussion in Parliament is that of citizenship. Currently, Italian law follows the principle of jus sanguinis: citizenship is acquired at birth by all those who have at least one Italian parent.

Such a law thus prevents those born and raised in Italy by foreign parents from becoming Italian citizens. They can only apply to become so after their 18th birthday, and after meeting several requirements.

Many organizations for civil rights, including the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, have long been advocating for changing the current law to the principle of jus soli, which gives anyone born in the territory of a state the right to nationality or citizenship.

It's a more comprehensive and fair citizenship law that takes into account the civil rights of almost 1,000,000 people living in the country, of whom over 800,000 are minors.

Regardless of the fact that they were born and raised in Italy, these people still face discrimination when it comes to citizenship-related rights.

A weakened jus soli

The final legal proposal that was most recently under consideration by MPs was a form of tempered jus soli, modified by the Parliament through several amendments.

This law would severely limit the extent of the concept of jus soli: newborns could only be considered Italian citizens if at least one of their parents is from an EU member state and has been living legally in Italy for over five years.

For non-EU nationals parents, additional requirements would apply: certain annual income requirements, stable housing and command of the Italian language.

Another way of obtaining Italian citizenship through the proposed law was through jus culturae: minors under 12 years of age could become Italian citizens if they have been living in Italy for five years and have completed at least one scholastic cycle. For minors over 12, six years of residency are required.

Postponed...forever?

Regardless of the restrictions in place in the original jus soli proposal, which were clearly aimed at limiting access to Italian citizenship to an extent that doesn’t stray very far from the current law – perhaps in an attempt to find general political consensus for the bill – the prime minister recently declared that the necessary votes to guarantee its approval are lacking, advising that it was best to postpone the issue until the Parliament reconvenes after the summer recess.

But NGOs and organizations advocating for civil rights are skeptical about the actual chances of such a law being voted through at a later time, as there is a looming debate over the national budget that lawmakers will surely turn their attention to when they reconvene.