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Citizenship rap

January 23, 2013

AMIR Issaa, a 34-year-old Italian hip-hop artist, has never conformed to stereotype. He has written about his Egyptian father going to jail and about the fraught nature of Italy’s integration process. Now he has come up with a rap song that explores the notion of citizenship and the relative merits of jus sanguinis and jus soli.

It is the latest expression of his frustration about prejudice and pigeon-holing. Born to an Italian mother on an island in the middle of the Tiber, he previously released a single entitled Foreigner in My Country. Now he has taken up the cause of those who, despite being born and brought up in Italy like him, have no access to Italian citizenship and technically remain foreigners in the only country they have ever known. Due to legislation which is, say critics, increasingly anachronistic, the children of immigrants in Italy must wait until they are 18 to be able to acquire citizenship. In order to qualify for nationality as adults, they must have been on Italian soil “without interruption” throughout their childhood.

The issue, subject of a political impasse for years, shows signs of returning to the forefront of debate. Desperate for an opportunity not to be missed, campaigners are stepping up the pressure and Issaa, in a rap released as part of a petition on, has been doing his bit.

“More than half a million people living secretly as foreigners in this country,” run the lyrics of Dear President. “There’s Daniel, there’s Amir, there’s Simone/ We want our rights; we’re not asking a favour.”

To its critics, Italy’s citizenship law — based largely on the concept of jus sanguinis, the right of blood — reflects the country’s past as a country of emigration rather than its present, and future, as one of immigration.

And, as Issaa wrote in the petition to the outgoing president, Giorgio Napolitano, it is woefully out of step with the country’s reality in 2013. Napolitano, to Issaa’s delight, highlighted the issue in his New Year’s Eve address, asking how the current situation was “conceivable” in a country that wanted to be open and inclusive.

According to the national statistics institute, there are more than 500,000 children resident in Italy whose parents come from countries outside the EU and have to spend their infancy and teenage years with a residency permit and tight restrictions on their movements.

Until 2008, one was Mario Balotelli, the Manchester City footballer who, despite being born in Sicily and fostered by an Italian family, was technically considered a Ghanaian citizen and was therefore ineligible to play for Italy until the age of 18. — The Guardian, London