According to the latest figures of Italy’s National Institute for Statistics (ISTAT), 184,638 non-EU citizens acquired Italian citizenship in 2016. Of these 5,799 were Brazilians, placing this nationality seventh in the ranking, behind Albanians (36,920), Moroccans (35,212), Indians (9,527), Bangladeshis (8,442), Pakistanis (7,678) and Macedonians (6,771). A couple of weeks ago I moved to Italy, as a Brazilian citizen, in order to apply for citizenship based on the ius sanguinis principle of the National Law, which guarantees this right for the descendants of Italian ancestors.
When I arrived in my new home, which I share with other Brazilians and eventual Airbnb tourists, one of my Brazilian housemates was having a conversation with an Italian guest. This man has already been granted ius sanguinis citizenship after more than a year of exhausting bureaucratic procedures. He was complaining to the Italian man about the prejudice that he suffers in finding a job even now when he enjoys citizenship. It was “absurd” that Africans, Asians and people from the Middle East who are here have priority in the search for a job and “we” – who obtain citizenship via family transmission – are not like these “other immigrants”, since we should have rights and the people who leave their countries without having Italian blood should not.
I cannot imagine how, based on what information, he came to the conclusion that African, Asian and Middle-East economic migrants and international protection holders get priority in obtaining a job in comparison to somebody born in Brazil given dual citizenship, especially because our mother tongue is closer to Italian than Arab, Farsi, Bangla or, say, Somali. Obviously, it is easier for Portuguese speakers to learn Italian and, consequently, integrate into Italian society. Even with all the difficulties, which are more numerous than those I have just mentioned, these brave immigrants from African, Asian and Middle-Eastern countries battle to master a new tongue and understand a culture which is very different from theirs. Many of them manage to thrive economically and contribute tremendously to the enrichment of Italian social capital. Also, several studies show that immigrants contribute more in taxes throughout the years than they receive in benefits and public assistance.
All of us who are immigrants fight our own personal battles in the host countries in order to take the opportunity to live a life with dignity, to have the right to work, to study and to provide for our families. It does not matter if we left our nations with documents that prove that we once had Italian family members or not, because all of us are migrating with the sole purpose of finding opportunity. In some cases, the situation is so difficult that the opportunity sought is simply that of being alive.
Thus, all of us immigrants must stand together to fight hatred, to fight xenophobic speeches that are, sadly, all too often spread among us. I gave an example of a person from my own country who reproduces this ignorant hate speech full of prejudice and enhances the competition between immigrants as if we were enemies, suggesting that some of us are better than others based on whatever legal status we acquire once we arrive in a foreign country. Unfortunately, immigrants from various nationalities share the same bad idea and try to support it with absurdist arguments.
This text is designed to ask readers to call the attention of everybody who spreads this terribly harmful concept and make them rethink about it. We should fight to eradicate cross-cultural prejudice in third countries. I explained to my housemate that among the Brazilians who acquired dual citizenship in Italy in 2016, 576 (9.9%) did so by family transmission, 1,313 (22.7%) by marriage and 3,910 (67.4%) by proving their residence in the European country. It means that most of the Brazilians who obtained their citizenship are economic migrants, just like the people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I asked him if he considered that he should have more rights than these Brazilians just because he has “Italian blood”. At this moment he understood that he was reproducing a prejudiced way of thinking based on animosity towards other nationalities and ethnicities, therefore not simply defending a specific legal status and his own right to have a job.
If we want to demand a world of free movement we must understand that it doesn’t matter how we acquired documents to live in a third country: all of us should have the same rights, because we are equals and we must fight together for a society in which everybody have the opportunity to live freely and with dignity.
Marcela Gola Boutros is master’s student in Migrations, Inter-ethnicity and Transnationalism at School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal. Her ongoing research focus is on the access to higher education among international protection holders and asylum seekers in Europe.