Second Generation Immigrants Denied Italian Citizenship when Affected by Down Syndrom

By Italy Country expert Guido Tintori

Access to citizenship by ius soli for second generation immigrants in Italy is quite restrictive. According to the law (Act. 91/1992) a person born in Italy from foreign parents can apply for citizenship by declaration, within one year after coming of age, proving uninterrupted and legal residence in Italy since birth (Art. 4.2).

As reported by Il Corriere della Sera, Italy’s most prominent newspaper, a few NGOs (Lega per i diritti delle persone con disabilità; Stranieri in Italia) have started denouncing several cases where the Ministry of Interior denies citizenship to applicants, when affected by Down syndrome, because they are “incapable of discernment and unable to take the pledge”, as prescribed by statute.

The Ministry of Interior’s interpretation of the Italian law is patently in conflict with Art. 18 (Liberty of Movement and Nationality) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Italy in March 2009, which states:

1. States Parties shall recognize the rights of persons with disabilities to liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residence and to a nationality, on an equal basis with others, including by ensuring that persons with disabilities:

a.    Have the right to acquire and change a nationality and are not deprived of their nationality arbitrarily or on the basis of disability;
b.    Are not deprived, on the basis of disability, of their ability to obtain, possess and utilize documentation of their nationality or other documentation of identification, or to utilize relevant processes such as immigration proceedings, that may be needed to facilitate exercise of the right to liberty of movement;
c.    Are free to leave any country, including their own;
d.    Are not deprived, arbitrarily or on the basis of disability, of the right to enter their own country.

2. Children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by their parents.