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Humans

Italian Nationality Law: It is time for reform

June 28th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Federica Tedeschi
located in:Italy
tags:integration, Marwa Mahmoud, Mondinsieme, refugee

fairplanet interviewed Marwa Mahmoud. She is in charge of intercultural education within the Mondinsieme Centre, and she shed light on the hurdles faced by both long-term and second-generation immigrants who apply for the Italian citizenship.

Mondinsieme is an Intercultural Centre based in Reggio Emilia, which facilitates the overall integration process of foreigners living in Italy and liaise with native inhabitants in order to support cultural diversity and promote interaction at all levels of society; it avails itself of the contribution of over forty associations.

The interview with Ms. Marwa Mahmoud took place just before June 15. Unfortunately, the timetable for the new law, which was to be triggered off by approval from the Senate on June 15, has been postponed to the end of June.

fairplanet: What are the the milestones of your journey from your arrival in Italy as a child to your present role within Mondinsieme:

Marwa Mahmoud: I arrived in Reggio Emilia from Egypt at the tender age of two and-a- half years and only towards the end of high school I realised I was not entitled to the same legal rights as any Italian citizen, despite having gone to school here. While studying towards a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature, I rediscovered and analyse the Arab culture and values I come from and became eager to know about Italy’s second-generation identities. This is the reason I started working for Mondinsieme in 2004 as a secondary school tutor and step by step I took on more responsibilities within the Centre.

How is Mondinsieme as an organisation and you with your specific role involved in issues concerning Italian citizenship and bureaucracy?

Mondinsieme was founded by the borough of Reggio Emilia in 2001 to give an answer to the 149 different nationalities living there, by organising intercultural education projects, including secondary school workshops and city events open to everybody. Every year we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, the Anniversary of the African Union on May 25 and the International Migrants Day on the 18th of December, just to mention a few. With the issue of second-generation immigrants and citizenship becoming more and more urgent, over ten years ago the then mayor of Reggio Emilia founded the Committee L’Italia sono anch’io, to support the reform of the obsolete Italian nationality law through nationally organised petitions. According to the 1992 law, in fact, kids born and raised in Italy by foreign parents, do not have birthright citizenship and can only apply for naturalization after the age of 18.

The waiting period to be granted the document can be up to six years and a successful outcome is not guaranteed. I officially became an Italian citizen at the age of 22, four years after having applied for it.

Last February Mondinsieme organised Il Carnevale della Cittadinanza (the Citizenship Carnival): what was the aim of the event and have you achieved it?

The event was organised along with the borough of Reggio Emilia, L’Italia sono anch’io and Italiani senza cittadinanza, a national movement founded last October to promote the first Italian nationality law pro-reform mob.

As it was Carnival time, we dressed up as bedsheet ghosts and picketed in Rome outside the Senate asking senators to approve the reform, already endorsed by the Chamber of Deputies in October 2015. The whole mob took place within a festive atmosphere and some senators took to the streets to meet us. The timetable for the new law is to be triggered off by approval on June 15 and we look forward to it!

Are there any further obstacles for Italians with a foreign background?

Even those who have been granted Italian citizenship face discrimination at all levels within society: racist behavior can be caused by exotic physical traits as well as by specific cultural and religious habits. The unlikelihood to be granted the same access as equal level professionals, to management jobs is another consequence of intolerance within society. Our campaign is therefore cultural as well, because there is not a nationally structured and coordinated set of laws that rule the rights of all immigrants.

Can you tell me a story of success?

I know a young lady from Morocco who arrived in Italy as a child and is now Education representative in the borough of Ravenna. She graduated in International Cooperation and worked hard to get such a renowned job. This case is an example of implementation of article 3 of the Italian Constitution on citizens’ equal rights, regardless of gender, color, place of origin and sexual orientation. Sadly, this is the exception rather than the rule.

What do you think Mondinsieme could do in the future to facilitate integration?

There are several burning issues to be tackled, like promoting recognition and respect for all religions within the fabric of our society, as well as the prevention of religious extremism by liaising with faith representatives from places of worship.
Whatever problem we deal with, the focus must remain on the significance of celebrating human rights.

Article written by:
Federica Tedeschi
Author
Current Map: Our coverage
Mondinsieme was founded by the borough of Reggio Emilia in 2001 to give an answer to the 149 different nationalities living there, by organising intercultural education projects, including secondary school workshops and city events open to everybody.
The waiting period to be granted the document can be up to six years and a successful outcome is not guaranteed. I officially became an Italian citizen at the age of 22, four years after having applied for it.
Even those who have been granted Italian citizenship face discrimination at all levels within society: racist behavior can be caused by exotic physical traits as well as by specific cultural and religious habits.

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