African Women Voices
Did you know that in Italy citizenship is not given as a birth right? You have no idea what I’m talking about have you? For you citizenship is something you simply get because you were born wherever you were born. In technical terms this is the right given by the “jus soli.” Latin only makes it fancier but in brief, you are what you are because you made your way out of your mom’s womb on a French, American, German, Japanese … soil. And that’s certainly one way of getting an Italian citizenship.
Another way you might be familiar with is the “jus sanguinis”: your mom, dad or both were born in the country that gives you the nationality. But these Latin terms don’t apply to everyone. In fact, if you were born in Italy from let’s say Congolese parents (like I am), you wouldn’t get the citizenship until you are 18. Yeah, that’s quite a good age to acknowledge your nationality and being responsible of it. That’s also a good age to start dealing with the unending, tedious, life-consuming Italian bureaucratic system.
Thanks to a law dated 1992 “foreigners born in Italy who have been continuously living in the country until their 18th birthday, can become citizens provided they ask permission to acquire the citizenship before one year is passed since their birthday.” You’d think that’s straightforward: get to 18, fill in some papers and that’s it. Not really, here is what happened to Michelle’s.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Michelle, I’m a high school student and I’m 18. I was born in Rome but my parents are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, they arrived in Italy 26 years ago. They don’t have the Italian citizenship. Neither did I. Until the age of 16 I was on my mother’s residence permit and got my own at that age. But couldn’t get a passport. As soon as I turned 18 I filled in the forms to acquire my Italian citizenship but it was rejected.
Why was your application rejected?
My request was rejected at the registry office because apparently the documents do not show I have resided in Italy all my life. I do have proofs, like the birth certificate and certificates of vaccinations from 1995, which is the year when for them I was not a resident. I have no idea why these have not been taken into account. Other young people in other Italian cities got their citizenship at the registry office despite being in my same situation.
What happened next?
I was suggested to go to the prefecture of Rome and wait. This will take much more time than expected. Based on the current law I have every right to have my citizenship. Why should I wait for two or more years to get it?
In all honesty and respect, the law should be applied in every city in the same way. It’s not acceptable that a person has to call in the lawyers to get what she is entitled to. Are they trying to prevent people born in Italy from getting a citizenship?
When a person is forced to wait eighteen years, not one, but eighteen years to be independent from the parents’ citizenship, why does she has to face thousands more difficulties? I really hope they’ll do something to fix the situation, because this is just exhausting …