Italian integration minister sparks controversy

Kyenge stance on citizenship for immigrants' kids stirs reposts

Italian integration minister sparks controversy

Rome, May 6 - Italy's Congo-born integration minister Cecile Kyenge stirred controversy on Monday for statements saying she would push for reform granting automatic Italian citizenship to the children of immigrants born in Italy. Automatic citizenship is rare in Europe, with France providing the exception to the general rule of blood-based citizenship rules. However, most European countries are less rigid than Italy regarding naturalization, and grant easier paths toward citizenship for the children of immigrants. "In this country, which is porous and transitory for immigrants, I believe automation is to be avoided," said ex-international cooperation minister Andrea Riccardi on Monday. Riccardi, who served under Italy's outgoing technical government led by Mario Monti, explained that he would rather see citizenship granted after the children of immigrants had concluded a cycle of schooling in Italy. Deputy Senate Speaker, Maurizio Gasparri, also objected, telling Radio IES that the proposed reform would "mean giving rights even to those who are born in Italy but never live there, so those who might return would have rights to things they never paid for through contributions that every Italian citizen makes". Meanwhile, the governor of Puglia and leader of the Freedom Ecology Left (SEL), Nichi Vendola, likened Italy's current, blood-based law to fascism. Being born on Italian soil "is an essential ingredient for defining what should be citizenship," Vendola said. "Rights born from the basis of blood or race ties are rights that belong to an opaque climate and culture of fascist derivation," Vendola declared. "After a regressive cultural climate of intolerance and xenophobia that we have lived through under years of right-wing government and cultural hegemony, I think that to relaunch from (giving) the right to citizenship to everyone born in Italy is a necessary, indispensable, dutiful, un-postponable reparation," Vendola said. Moroccan-origin journalist, author and ex-parliamentarian for Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom Party (PDL) Souad Sbai countered, "Someone should explain to Minister Kyenge that citizenship for immigrants' children, in whatever form it may happen, doesn't interest anybody". Sbai explained that the real issues are "work, housing, health and so many other anxieties for the life of a foreigner in Italy, not to mention to all Italians as well". Secretary of the populist Lombard League, Matteo Salvini, said, "To have a minister that arrived here illegally is something that could only happen in Italy. And if we go to other countries, they laugh behind our backs". The Wikipedia biography of Kyenge says that she arrived in Italy in 1983 as the recipient of a scholarship to attend medical school in Rome, but due to a mistake had to wait a year in Italy before she could begin her studies, which she then successfully completed.

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