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Love for Italy’s ‘multi-ethnic’ Olympic team sparks calls to rethink citizenship law


The following was taken from a recent Politico article:

A record-breaking medal tally for Italy’s Olympic team in Tokyo has revived a debate on citizenship rights back home. Footage of Italy’s top athletes showed Italy’s racial and ethnic diversity.

Around 15 percent of Italy’s Olympic team were born abroad or have parents born abroad. On the team, which includes categories like track and field, that figure rises to almost 40 percent.

The diversity of the team has rekindled ongoing discussions in Italy over who is granted citizenship, with Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Malagò crediting the “multi-ethnic team” for Italy’s success and calling for an acceleration to the citizenship applications of professional athletes.

Italy’s citizenship laws have long created hurdles for athletes not born in the country.

As with most European countries, Italy awards citizenship based on jus sanguinis — the principle that citizenship is determined by the nationality of a person’s parents. Jus soli, the principle that the country of citizenship is determined by a person’s country of birth, regardless of the citizenship of their parents, is applied in Canada and the United States.

That’s meant that a child born in Italy to immigrant parents is not recognized as a citizen and cannot compete under the Italian flag at an international level.

Some politicians, meanwhile, say citizenship shouldn’t only be made easier for those with the potential to achieve glory in the global sports arena, calling citizenship a “right” rather than something to be “earned.”

A legislative proposal to offer citizenship to children of immigrants who have completed three years of schooling was passed in the parliament’s lower house in 2017 but blocked in the Senate. More than 1 million children currently live in Italy without citizenship rights.

Credit: POLITICO, HANNA ROBERTS, August 12, 2021

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