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IMMIGRATION

Italy accepts some migrants from rescue boat as tensions rise

Italy readied Sunday to allow vulnerable migrants off a second charity rescue vessel in Sicily, but sources close to firebrand minister Matteo Salvini warned those not eligible to remain would be forced back into international waters.

The SOS Humanity 1 rescue ship seen off sicily
The SOS Humanity 1 rescue ship run by the German organisation SOS Humanitarian is seen at sea off the shores of Sicily on Saturday, November 5, 2022. Italy has let minors and sick people off in Catania  vessel Sunday but refused to let 35 male adult migrants off. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli) 

Minors and the sick were let off the German-flagged Humanity 1 in the early hours at the port of Catania, but 35 adult male migrants were refused permission to set foot on Italian soil, charity SOS Humanity said.

A total of 144 people disembarked.

Fellow humanitarian vessel Geo Barents, run by Doctors Without Borders’ and sailing under a Norwegian flag, said it too has been summoned so authorities could “evaluate vulnerable cases” among the 572 rescued people on board.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi earlier said those who do not “qualify” would have to “leave territorial waters”, after refusing requests by four charity vessels for a safe port.

The Geo Barents, Ocean Viking and Rise Above are still carrying 900 migrants between them.

Italy’s new far-right government, which was sworn in last month, has vowed to crack down on boat migrants attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Over 87,000 people have landed in Italy so far this year, according to the interior ministry — though only 14 percent of those were rescued at sea and brought to safety by charity vessels.

Sources close to far-right transport minister Matteo Salvini, who controls the ports, said Sunday the Geo Barents was only being allowed in temporarily.

“Those who remain on the vessel will be provided with the assistance necessary to leave territorial waters,” the sources said.

‘Extremely depressed’

The 35 migrants refused permission to leave the Humanity 1 were “extremely depressed”, SOS Humanity’s press officer Petra Krischok told AFP.

It was not clear whether the ship would be ordered to leave.

“For now, we stay here and wait,” she said.

The leader of the main opposition party, Democratic Party chief Enrico Letta, accused the government on Twitter of breaking international law.

Piantedosi should explain his actions to parliament, the party said.

Member of parliament Aboubakar Soumahoro, present as those chosen from the Humanity 1 were disembarked, slammed the “selection of shipwrecked migrants”.

He said far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government was treating “the worn-out bodies of shipwrecked people, already exhausted by cold, fatigue, trauma and torture… as objects”.

“If the remaining castaways are rejected… we will challenge this decision in all appropriate institutions,” he said on Twitter.

‘No responsibility’

Piantedosi said Saturday those migrants not allowed to disembark would have to be “taken care of by the flag state” — a reference to the national flags under which the vessels sail.

The Humanity 1 and Mission Lifeline charity’s Rise Above sail under the German flag.

The Geo Barents and SOS Mediterranee’s Ocean Viking are registered in Norway.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said Thursday it bore “no responsibility” for those rescued by private Norwegian-flagged ships in the Mediterranean.

Germany insisted in a diplomatic “note” to Italy that the charities were “making an important contribution to saving human lives” and asked Rome “to help them as soon as possible”.

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POLITICS

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Brazil’s former president may soon face legal charges after last week’s attempted coup. Here’s why he’s considering becoming an Italian citizen to escape extradition from the US.

Analysis: Could Bolsonaro get Italian citizenship to avoid extradition?

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has figured heavily in international news lately after hundreds of his supporters stormed government buildings in the capital Brasilia on Sunday, January 8th, in what has now been widely recognised as a failed coup. 

And though there is currently no evidence that Bolsonaro directly ordered Sunday’s insurrection, Brazilian media reports suggest the former president may, in the words of Brazilian Senator Renan Calheiros, have to “answer for his crimes and be interrogated on the terrorist acts he always incited”.

It is precisely the prospect of legal prosecution that, in a turn of events very few would have been able to anticipate, might tie Bolsonaro’s fate to Italy.

Brazilian news media Istoè and O globo both recently reported that Bolsonaro, who has Italian origins, is currently planning on formally requesting Italian citizenship – a process which two of his five sons, Flavio and Eduardo, started back in 2020.

But why would becoming an Italian citizen allow Bolsonaro to evade prosecution in Brazil?

Bolsonaro is currently in Florida, USA, which he entered on December 30th, two days before his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in as the new Brazilian head of state. 

Aftermath of failed coup in Brasilia, Brazil

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters stormed Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, on Sunday, January 8th. Photo by Carl DE SOUZA / AFP

But his position in the US is shaky, to say the least. A single criminal charge – Bolsonaro is already under investigation in at least four pre-coup criminal probes – and sufficient evidence to show probable cause would be enough for the States to accept Brazil’s extradition request. 

Conversely, as an Italian citizen residing in Italy, Bolsonaro would be most likely shielded from extradition as the current agreements between Rome and Brasilia exclude extradition for crimes of political nature and the Italian Constitution (article 26) bans the “extradition of [an Italian] citizen unless international conventions command so”.

So, it seems Bolsonaro would effectively be able to evade prosecution by acquiring Italian citizenship. But should he ultimately choose to request citizenship, how likely is it that he would be successful?

While there’s no way to predict what the final outcome would be, he’d have good chances, at least in theory.

Italy is far more lenient than other countries when it comes to allowing people to claim citizenship via ancestry (also known as ‘right of blood’ or jure sanguinis).

In fact, there are no limits on how far back up the line of descent the applicant’s Italian ancestor is located as long as the Italian national in question was alive on or after March 17th 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was officially born. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will my children get an Italian passport if born in Italy?

Bolsonaro’s paternal great-grandfather, Vittorio Bolzonaro, moved to Brazil from Anguillara Veneta, Veneto in the late 1880s or early 1890s at the very latest.

Other than that, the issue of Italian citizenship is dependent on one remaining condition, namely that no Italian national along the line of descent formally renounced their Italian citizenship prior to the birth of their descendant. 

Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani

Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani has recently confirmed that no request for Italian citizenship has been made yet by Bolsonaro. Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

There’s no way to know whether this requirement is actually met in Bolsonaro’s case, though, if it were, his path to acquiring Italian citizenship would be pretty clear. 

As with all things Italian, the process of getting an Italian citizenship application approved is usually very lengthy (taking over three years in most cases). However, there is a ‘fast-track’ option which, while requiring the applicant to relocate to Italy and become a legal resident, cuts overall processing times to around one year. 

So, should Bolsonaro ultimately go for the fast-track route – and provided that he applied immediately and all his documents (including birth, death and marriage certificates of all his relevant ancestors) were in order – the earliest he could become an Italian citizen would be at some point in 2024. 

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

This is of course all purely hypothetical at present, especially as Italy’s foreign minister Antonio Tajani confirmed on Wednesday that Bolsonaro hasn’t (yet) submitted a request for Italian citizenship. 

But the mere prospect of Brazil’s former president applying for citizenship has caused a stir within the Italian political landscape – several left-wing forces have already asked that the request be immediately rejected should it ever come through.

Brazil's former president Jair Bolsonaro in Italy

Bolsonaro already has honorary Italian citizenship, which was granted by the small town of Anguillara Veneta in 2021. Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP

Some Italian social media users also highlighted the fact that it’s relatively difficult for children born in Italy to foreign parents to obtain Italian citizenship.

“Before (possibly) giving Italian citizenship to the Bolsonaro family you must give it to all children born and living in Italy who wish to be Italian citizens,” said one.

The former president already has honorary Italian citizenship, granted by Anguillara Veneta, the small town Bolsonaro’s great-grandfather originally emigrated from. However, the town’s mayor is now under increasing pressure to revoke it.

Making Bolsonaro an honorary citizen was a “grave error then” but failing to revoke the award after Sunday’s events would be nothing short of “incomprehensible”, stated Veneto regional councillors Vanessa Camani and Andrea Zanoni, both with the Democratic Party.

As for the Italian government, PM Giorgia Meloni took to Twitter on Sunday to condemn the insurrection in Brasilia. However, neither she nor any other member of her cabinet have so far taken a stance on Bolsonaro’s contentious citizenship issue.

Also, at the time of writing, no member of the League, which largely supported Bolsonaro during his tenure as president and praised him as the “pride of Veneto” in October 2018, has spoken out on the topic.

Whether it’s just a bad bout of forgetfulness or deliberate reticence, the silence is deafening.

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