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'Immigrants should be citizens'

Process should be easier says Vatican 'migrant minister'

03 November, 20:14

(ANSA) - Vatican City, November 3 - Immigrants living in Italy should be entitled to Italian citizenship, the Vatican's 'migrant minister' Antonio Maria Veglio'' said on Tuesday. Presenting the Vatican's upcoming 6th World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, Archbishop Veglio' said he saw ''no reason'' why immigrants who respect Italy's laws and boost its wealth should not be granted citizenship.

''Here in Italy we have around 4.5 million immigrants,'' said Veglio', who heads the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

''These are people that work, pay their taxes and increase Italy's wealth. ''Their children are studying in our schools and therefore I do not see why they should not be fully integrated if they respect our laws and observe our rules''. Under current laws, foreign nationals must reside in Italy for 10 years before they can apply for citizenship, while the foreign spouses of Italian nationals must wait two years before applying. Babies born in Italy of foreign parents are not entitled to citizenship until they are three although a proposal currently before parliament recommends automatic citizenship for all Italian-born babies. The last government sought to simplify the citizenship process for adults, reducing it from 10 years to five years, but these plans were shelved when the current centre-right administration came to power last year. Asked what he thought was the appropriate minimum residence period for citizenship, the archbishop said it was not his place to comment. ''Some say five years is right, others say ten, while others say three,'' he noted. ''This decision is a matter for politicians''. Discussing immigration policy more generally, Veglio' stressed that humanity must always take precedence over other concerns. ''The challenge facing all of us in a globalized society in which immigration is a key issue is to bring about a profound change of perspective, making a clear decision in favour of human beings,'' he said. The archbishop also reiterated the Church's commitment to ''the most vulnerable members of society, such as migrants and refugees'', saying that its work with people of ''different nationalities, ethnicities and religions helps reveal the true face of the Church''. The Vatican's upcoming World Congress on Migrants, which comes six years after the last such event, runs from November 9 to 12. Some of Italy's recent immigration policies, especially a controversial 'push-back' accord with Libya, have been criticised by the Catholic Church.

photo: Msgr Veglio'

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