Challenges of a second generation immigrant

Queenia Pereira de Oliveira: “We live in a permanent state of uncertainty”

To be a second generation immigrant in Italy is a big challenge in deed.  However much one feels to be Italian, before officially obtaining Italian citizenship, one is required to have the Permit of Stay in order to live legally in the country, says Ms. Queenia Pereira de Oliveira.

Queenia was born on 7th August 1986 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her mother is a Brazilian while her father is a Nigerian.

She has spent most of her life in Italy. Queenia is worried of the fact that the country’s citizenship law doesn’t guarantee the right to naturalization of immigrant children who have grown up in the country. These children who are Italians in all aspects, are forced to have the Permit of Stay in order live in the country, and are usually issued permits which are valid for short periods. This makes them live in a permanent state of uncertainty.

Queenia, who is a poet, has in fact written a poem titled “Awareness” dedicated to all the second generation immigrants in Italy. The poem is a true picture of the suffering of these children who consider themselves Italians but who unfortunately are considered foreigners by the Italian law.

Queenia has been living in Italy since she was five years old, but has not yet obtained Italian citizenship. Asked why she has not yet become Italian, she says: “It is only because of an unjust law, that is, the Law 91 of 1992 which doesn’t recognize the fact that the population of the second generation of immigrants either born or grown up in Italy, is growing rapidly in the country.”

She says that many second generation immigrants, herself included, are living this situation of precarious rights linked to the Permit of Stay.

Queenia is pursuing a Degree course in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Rome, La Sapienza.

Talking about her identity, Queenia says: “I feel I’m a combination of different identities. I think the work of indentifying a second generation immigrant is quite complex. I can now only tell you that I surely feel I’m Italian, but at the same time I’m also a Nigerian and a Brazilian. Let me say that nothing excludes the other.”

She says that her family and close relatives consider her Italian while others, misled by her foreign name and surname, and her look, initially think that she is not an Italian, but they soon believe it when they come into contact with her.

Having arrived in the country when she was a child, Queenia considers herself lucky to have been saved from undergoing the process of integration. She says it is much easier for children to integrate and be accepted in their areas.

Queenia is quite critical of the country’s immigration laws. “As far as immigration and immigrants are concerned, I think Italy has generally made very big steps backwards,” she says, hoping that the country would make very fast and big steps forward.

Queenia’s immediate objective is to fight for a new citizenship law which doesn’t deny citizenship to children of immigrants born in the country, as well as to those who have spent most of their lives here, just as herself. This is a fight they are determined to win together with the Rete G2-Seconde Generazioni, the organisation of second generation immigrants in Italy which she belongs to.

Asked what message she would like to convey to the President of Italy and to the Prime Minister, Queenia says: “I would tell them to start thinking concretely about the future of young people, and of the future of the second generation of immigrants who are growing up here in Italy without security.”

She says the idea of writing the poem “Awareness” came from a feeling of impossibility to fully enjoy one’s life, and the awareness of not being able to undergo many experiences which are very important for the young people, experiences such as travelling abroad, the right to vote, etc.

The poem “Awareness”, she says, represents “the desire to launch a message about my situation, and the situation of many others, and to tell Italy that we are existing, that the second generations are not only small children, but they are growing up and they want certain rights.”

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By Stephen Ogongo