If, on the one hand, the economic crisis and the lack of real decrees on the flow of workers from abroad caused the drop in arrivals of new Albanian immigrants in Italy, on the other, more and more Albanians are becoming Italians.
Many have now completed the cycle: leaving their country of origin, immigrating, integrating and becoming fully part of society, putting the Italian passport in their pocket.
All this has led to a decrease in the number of Albanians with a residence document below the 450 thousand units.
More precisely, the Albanian community in Italy - those who are counted as residence permits - has grown year by year until the beginning of the 2013, when it exceeded half a million (502.546); since then there has been a continuous downsizing to arrive at 441.838 people at 1 January 2017.
In the same period of the reduction of the Albanian community with a residence document, however, we are witness to the significant increase of those who become Italian citizens.
Istat data speak for themselves. Only during the 2016 did they swear allegiance to the Italian Constitution 36.920 Albanian citizens. Still according to Istat, they are women and men, almost equally; they become Italians more for reasons of long residence than of marriage with an Italian; and they automatically obtain citizenship for increasingly smaller transmissions.
The 2016 figures almost quadruple compared to those of the 2012, when only Albanian 9.493 became Italian. Year after year the growth has been unstoppable: the 13.671 acquisitions in 2013, 21.148 in the 2014 and 35.134 citizenship awards in the 2015 have been passed on.
Moreover, only in the 2016 did more Albanians obtain the Italian citizenship than they had acquired until 2011. The 2011 census says so. In fact, an interesting datum collected on that occasion was that of the citizenship had before the Italian one. 33.699 people claimed to have Albanian citizenship before becoming Italian.
A simple addition of the data and the accounts are soon made: at the end of the 2016, the Albanians who have become Italian exceed the 150 thousand.
2017 data are not yet available, but the current trend of citizenship acquisitions, seniority and stability of the Albanian community in Italy suggest that the trend of recent years is maintained. Therefore it is reasonable to estimate that over 35 thousand other Albanians have sworn loyalty to the Italian flag also during the past year.
Perhaps, some of all these have left Italy, perhaps someone else has changed their lives. Without a doubt, however, we are around this order of magnitude.
And that's not all: the data escape all second-generation ones that in over a quarter of a century, from the 1990 to this part, were born of Albanian couples, of which at least one had already obtained Italian citizenship, or born of mixed couples Italo-Albanian.
All these children, never considered foreigners from Italy, are born Italian (at least they, given the sinking of the citizenship reform for the children of immigrants in the Senate), so they do not appear in the statistics of foreigners who have become Italians. How many? Hard to say exactly, but some analysts talk about 25-30 mila.
For those born to Albanian parents, but both with Italian passports, there are no statistics. We find data only for those born of mixed couples. In the Istat annual reports on the birth rate it appears that only in the year 2016 were born over 2.600 children from such pairs: 2.300 in the 2015, 2.150 in the 2014, 1.800 in the 2013, 1.850 in the 2012, 1.750 in the 2011, 1.500 in the 2010, ... over 1.400 in the 2008, ..., about 1.350 in 2006 and so on.
Therefore, to affirm that there are over 200 thousand Italians today "of Albanian blood" - without considering the arbëreshë - is not wrong. At least for the laws in force, because no one can know then what each of us feels inside.
However, they are all part of that large Albanian community abroad on which Albania does not know much. Nor how many are exactly and even less where they live. The last government dedicated a ministry to them, planning their registration to give them the chance to participate in the Albanian elections by voting where they live. Maybe it's too late now and we don't know how comforting the saying "Better late than never" can be.
(Originally published on Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa the 26 February 2018. The article is available in Albanian on Shqiptariiitalise.com , tit.orig. "Mbi 200 mijë shqiptarë kanë pasaportë Italian")
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