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School bus hijack 'hero' students still waiting for Italian citizenship

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School bus hijack 'hero' students still waiting for Italian citizenship
Adam (3rd from right) with four other studentsand Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (L) at an awards ceremony in Rome in March. Photo: AFP
10:58 CEST+02:00
The debate over citizenship rules is intensifying in Italy, as children hailed as heroes in a school bus hijacking in March are still waiting for their promised Italian citizenship.

Schoolchildren in Milan say they haven't heard anything about the Italian citizenship they were promised after their school bus was hijacked in March, Al Jazeera reports.

"It's been two months now, we still don't have any news," 13-year-old Adam El Amami, one of the students hailed as a hero for his part in stopping the hijacker, said in the televised news report.

The dramatic police rescue of 51 children from the hijacked bus in Crema, near Milan, gripped Italy.

Some of the students on board were found not to have Italian citizenship despite being born in Italy, including Adam, who was born in Italy to Moroccan parents.

Under an Italian law that hasn't changed since 1911, the children of foreign parents who are born in Italy can only apply for citizenship when they reach 18.

Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini said Adam and other children involved in the hijacking would be awarded Italian citizenship after the incident.

"If there are children who are not Italian citizens, we have studied this question and we will complete the process so that they can become Italian," said Salvini, also head of the anti-immigration League party, after meeting five of the children in Rome in March.

Matteo Salvini takes a selfie with some of the children by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Photo: AFP

The childrens' case has reopened a long-running debate about the fairness of Italy's citizenship laws.

The previous centre-left government said it would change the law to make it easier to grant citizenship to children born to non-Italian parents in Italy, but the law was never passed, largely due to opposition from the League. 

READ ALSO: What does it mean to be a 'New Italian'? The question facing a divided Italy

The issue seemed to have been largely forgotten as Salvini and his party gained support for their anti-immigrant rhetoric, but the case of the schoolchildren has led to renewed calls for change.

When one of the children, Ramy, suggested changes to the citizenship law, Salvini told the boy: "Get elected and then you can make the law."

Ramy looks on as Salvini speaks at an awards ceremony in Rome in March. Photo: AFP

Salvini previously stressed that Italian nationality would be awarded in this case "without any variation in the law, since the law exists and works, we do not change it."

Meanwhile, many have questioned whether the Interior Minister should be able to hand out citizenship as a reward or remove it as a punishment, after he vowed to strip the Senegalese-born bus driver involved in the attack of the Italian citizenship he'd gained through marriage.

Italy's tough new package of security laws, which Salvini describes as the "Salvini decree", includes provisions making it easier to strip foreign-born Italians of their citizenship.

READ ALSO: What Italy's new laws mean for your citizenship application

 
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