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article imageItaly delays citizenship rights bill under migrant pressure

By AFP     Jul 17, 2017 in World

Italy's government has delayed a parliamentary vote on a citizenship rights bill as tensions rise over the number of migrants arriving on the country's shores.

The proposal to give children born on Italian soil to foreign parents citizenship rights at birth or after at least five years of Italian schooling enjoys the support of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

But Gentiloni said late Sunday that the bill would be dropped until later in the year considering other "urgent deadlines" and "difficulties that have arisen on certain fringes of the majority".

He gave his "personal commitment" to ensure the bill was approved in the autumn.

Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who leads a small centrist party in the ruling coalition, had said that while the bill had his support in principle, he could not guarantee the necessary votes in favour considering the current climate.

A poll last week showed the bill is losing support among Italians, even though such a path to citizenship exists in many other EU countries, and despite supporters insisting the draft law has nothing to do with newly-arrived migrants.

Over 86,000 migrants have arrived so far this year, up over 10 percent compared with the same period in 2016.

The left-leaning La Repubblica daily called on the political class to "be straight with Italians and dismantle lies".

"This law has nothing to do with those who are disembarking on our coasts," it said.

Under the proposed bill, one of the parents would have to have been legally present in Italy for five years for children born here to be granted citizenship, so it would not apply to those refused asylum and ordered to leave the country.

Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigration Northern League party, described Gentiloni's decision as "a victory" for his party, saying: "If they try again, they'll find us ready. Stop invasion".

Some 45 mayors in Sicily have demanded a meeting with the government this week after a heated protests over the distribution of newly-arrived migrants on the southern Italian island.

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