More than half of the 2.5 million foreigners living in Italy have been residents for more than five years. But when it comes to giving citizenship to immigrants Italy has one of the worst records in Europe. Italy is naturalising less than one per cent of its immigrant population every year, compared with two per cent in Spain, five per cent in France and Germany and ten per cent in Holland.

Under present Italian law there are three ways in which immigrants may obtain citizenship; firstly if they have been resident in Italy for ten years, secondly if they are born in Italy of immigrant parents and have lived permanently in the country until their 18th birthday and thirdly if they marry an Italian they are entitled to citizenship after a waiting period of six months. In 2002 Italian citizenship was granted to 10,655 foreigners, 91 per cent of whom obtained citizenship by marrying an Italian.

In the autumn the Italian parliament is expected to debate changes to the existing law to make it faster and easier to obtain citizenship.