Italians Without Citizenship | A flash mob of ghosts gives the Senate a wake up call

Italians Without Citizenship | A flash mob of ghosts gives the Senate a wake up call


On October 13 2015, the Lower House of the Italian parliament approved a reform to citizenship. A long and an arduous process that children born in Italy to foreign parents were forced to undertake. Were and remains to be as the Senate has blocked the reform for a year now. Blaming the more than 7,000 amendments presented by the Lega – Italy’s far right party – and the political majority who seems unable to understand that this bill is a priority in the every day life of people, children who are often considered unjustly, to be of a lower class. To date, over 1 million people are waiting for their citizenship.

Besides some critical aspects, if approved the bill would make it easier to children of foreign parents born in Italy to become citizens.

The current law states that a child born in Italy is not allowed to apply for citizenship until he or she turns 18.

How would it help? If approved at the Senate, the reform will allow people to get their citizenship in two ways: Through the Ius Soli Temperato, that is gaining citizenship through birth so if a child is born in Italy to foreign parents who have been legally living in Italy for five years; through the Ius Culturae, he or she would be entitled to Italian citizenship: this would also apply to children of foreign parents up to 12 years of age who have attended and successfully completed at least five years of school in Italy.

Children who arrive in the country between the ages of 12 and 18 can also apply if they have lawfully lived in the country for at least six years and have positively completed a cycle of education. In both cases, parents – or guardians of the minor – must apply to the local city council before the child turns 18.

Right now, this means that children born in the Bel Paese to foreign parents don’t have control over their own lives, instead they must stand in endless lines for residency permits in the country which they have been born and/or raised, slaves to a sick and contorted system that doesn’t consider them legitimate children because they don’t have “pure Italian blood.” Last May, Italy approved Same Sex Unions.

It’s for this reason that some Italians born to foreign parents started a group called “Italiani Senza Cittadinanza” – Italians without Citizenship – and organized a flash mob on October 13 in a selection of cities throughout Italy with the aim of raising awareness for their right to be considered children of Italy.

From Rome, to Padova, Palermo, Bologna, Reggio Emilia and Naples, hundreds of people dressed up as ghosts, with white sheets covering their faces to illustrate their sense of invisibility in their own country, asking Italian politicians to get a move on, and find the courage to immediately approve the Citizen Reforms bill.

griot-mag-(black) Italians Without Citizenship | A flashmob of ghosts gives the Senate a wake up call_8_

Born and raised [in Italy] but not recognised as Italian

In Rome, the city that is home to many political buildings, the activists met with Senator Lo Moro, speaker for the reform in the senate, in front of the ancient Pantheon where she reiterated her support and willingness to accelerate the process. Furthermore, during the flash mob, in front of cameras and journalists, the group gave the Senator “citizenship cards”, cards that include photos and precious memories from the time they were at school.

We asked members of the flash mob some questions to understand the mood, how they were feeling and help you guys get to know the children of Italy who the politicians still refuse to recognize as their own.

Ark, 20 years old, Castel Volturno.
griot-mag-(black) Italians Without Citizenship | A flashmob of ghosts gives the Senate a wake up call_arkGRIOT
: Can you tell us your story?

Ark: My story is really simple. I am an Italian citizen who, looking at the various problems this country has, realized it’s up to the Italian people to change things. Starting with peoples’ minds, the way they think and the way the average person’s mind works because, through changing the way people think we can change the system.

Many think of this as a time of crisis. I think of it as a new age, an age in which the old criteria and systems no longer work. It’s up to us, and by us I mean not only the second generation Italians, to lay the foundations and new structures of this new age.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

I think it’s fundamental as it demonstrates that we, the second generation, are active and ready to defend our rights because citizenship is a status that affords certain benefits and essential rights. A right that is very important, as every citizen should be able to take part in the changes that affect their country. Taking part in an initiative to help pass the 91/1992 citizenship law means making Italy better for future generations.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Being Italian to me doesn’t just mean being born here, it means feeling part of this culture of the Bel Paese – the beautiful country.

***

Kwanza, 23 years old, Rome.
griot-mag-(black) Italians Without Citizenship | A flashmob of ghosts gives the Senate a wake up call_kwanzaGRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Kwanza: I moved to Rome with my mum when  I was one year old. My mother is from Bologna but my father is Afro-Brazilian. He lives in Germany because he preferred it there. Both my parents are artists, dancers and much more.

When they were younger they protested for many social causes, so since I was little I have had a strong calling to creativity and activism. For this reason, even though I have citizenship thanks to my mum, the problem of discrimination and recognition which I feel through my friends, many of whom have foreign parents yet have never seemed foreign to me, in actual fact I felt like they were my problems as I don’t understand the logic in which I am seen as “privileged” compared to them whilst they are treated like foreigners in the country that they call home.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

The immobility and passivity around an obsolete law made us create the group “Italiani Senza Cittadinanza”, formed by people who were angry and fed up. For the first time, we’ve managed to organize a serious grass roots campaign to highlight to the senators that it is in the public interest to approve this law.

The most important thing about the flashmob is that it is going on at the same time in six cities throughout Italy, in front of state buildings, symbolic locations linked to the request of citizenship.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Being Italian to me means being raised in Italy, to have gone to school here and know the country. Simply, everyone who really feels like they are Italian. It’s a right that this is recognized through the course of building a personal identity, irrespective of ethnic background.

***

Chouaib, 23 years old, born in Casablanca, raised between Vittorio Veneto and Trieste.

 

GRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Chouaib: I arrived in Italy when I was one year old, I went to school outside of Treviso (elementary, middle and hospitality school) then when I was 18, I moved to Trieste. I am trained as a barman but right now I’m working as waiter.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

The flash mob in Rome could be the right signal to get us noticed by the powers that be and ensure that once and for all everyone becomes a recognized citizen.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Being Italian for me means being raised in Italy, having Italian values, not being able to speak Arabic because I only know Italian. Eating and drinking Italian.

***

Gerarldine, 24 years old, Italian with Nigerian origins.

GRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Geraldine: I was born in Rome and in 2000 my family and I moved to Modena for work. I have a high school diploma and a degree in electronic engineering. Right now I am looking for a job while waiting to enroll on a training programme.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

This event is really important, above all because in general it is fundamental to make your voice heard when things are taking a turn for the worst. This type of manifestation shows that we, the second generation, as humans, have respect for ourselves and we don’t bow down in the face of injustice, we come together even across long distances. I hope this will light a spark and show how important this is and show Parliament how strong we are.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Being Italian, for me, means feeling integrated into society without any prejudices of any sort. It means seeing my right to be recognized as a person just like everyone else. Being Italian means feeling part of a community without feeling ashamed of my diversity, feeling at home when I take part in national celebrations and Italian cultural events.

***

Marwa, 32 years old, born in Alessandria, Eygpy and resident in Reggio Emilia.
griot-mag-italiani senza cittadinanza seconde generazioni stranieri riforma cittadinanza ius soli ius sanguinis flash mob-marwaGRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Marwa: I’ve lived in Reggio Emilia for 30 years, raised between school and Italian friends. My parents arrived in Italy at the end of the 1980’s. My dad is a welder and my mum is a housewife. My brother and I both have university degrees. Now I work for a Foundation in Reggio Emilia and my brother works in a bank.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

I believe that right now it is fundamental that the reforms to citizenship laws should be given priority by politicians in the Italian Government. This affects thousands of newborn babies, school children, students and workers who are a cultural and economic resource for our country, but right now are simply “Italians without citizenship”. For this reason it is necessary to take a stand in our city squares and make the Italian Senate understand this.

What does being Italian mean to you?

I was raised studying Dante and Pirandello at school, I’ve studied the principles of the Italian Constitution and I feel part of the community in which I was raised. Being unable to vote due to this law, I asked for citizenship as soon as I was 18. I felt like it was like overcoming a trial that I had never been able to voice. I now have my citizenship but I understand the status of those who are still searching for their identity, like the ignavi in Dante’s Inferno.

***

Xavier, 23 years old, Como.

GRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Xavier: I have lived in Italy since I was a baby. My family comes from a country in Central America that is flooded with violent gangs. In order to guarantee a better future for me, my mother moved here. My mum is a cleaning lady and works really hard to integrate into society even though she often isn’t given any help in doing so. My family doesn’t talk much about Latin America, as it’s just my mother and I we are European inside.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

People my age don’t have the tools to relate to politics in our society. Often there’s no passion or drive, or sometimes, like in my case, they don’t have the right to be involved. This initiative helps to give a voice to those who don’t have one.

At the moment there’s talk of an invasion of migrants, constitutional turmoil and as usual our problems take a back seat. With this action I hope that anyone who is worried about the rising numbers of foreigners in the country understands that we are already here and we have always been here. I hope that those against this can understand that by recognizing people’s rights, like me, it doesn’t take away from their own. I could say that rights are like lying in the sun, if someone else lies next to be it’s not like I tan any less.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Being a citizen means being part of a community, sharing aspirations and dreams as well as common problems. I didn’t decide to become Italian, it was destiny that brought me to this country. To give a sense to being Italian I should give a response to the significance of my life, given that this is an allusive characteristic for me. All in all, at 23 years old, I find it a bit hard.

***

Mohamed, 25 years old, Treviso.

GRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Mohamed: I was born in Casablanca. My father brought me to Italy when I was 3 years old, I studied here until I was 16, while in high school I wasn’t permitted to go on a school trip to London. From then I understood that I wasn’t the same as my classmates, I had previously believed. At 18 my opportunity to request citizenship was denied. The very next day I started to fight for my right to be what I inevitably already am, an Italian.

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

I believe it is really important as it comes from us the “Italians without citizenship” who’ve been subject to discrimination for years, deprived and with the means we have we are fighting to make our Italy a country that is more equal and without discrimination for future generations.

What does being Italian mean to you?

It means defending Italy against the “pizza, mafia and mandolino” stereotype. It means vindicating history and the burgeoning Italian culture. Being Italian means many things but for me it simply means recognizing and legitimizing that which I already am, an Italian.

***

Tighisti, 37 years old, Italian-Eritrean.

GRIOT: Can you tell me your story?

Tighisti: I arrived in Venice when I was 12 years old. My story is that of a girl who came to join her father, who was already a resident in Italy, and learn the language and culture within 6 months. It was a spontaneous growth and formation, first school then university. In 2014 I finished a masters after my degree, for my classmates I was “the Italian physiotherapist.”

How important is the flash mob for the Citizenship Reform?

The flash mob helps people to understand that we must enjoy equal rights owed to our fellow countrymen. We can’t continue being ghosts in our own society, we have to have the same rights to move around and compete in an economic, social and political context.

What does being Italian mean to you?

Well, I believe we’re a little bit late with all the changes. Our Italy doesn’t reflect on itself with the passing of time. We are the reflection and sooner or later, this country is going to have to take a look at itself.

Italian

Featured Image | Xavier Palma, 23, Como

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Johanne Affricot

Johanne Affricot

Art, traveling, photography, music and culture. I could just live on this. Curiosity is my daily bread. With a love for food, do not ever try to take the last bite off my plate. I could bite back.