Khaby Lame has been granted Italian citizenship. He received his citizenship during a ceremony in Chivasso, his home town, close to Turin in the northern Piedmont region, on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Senegalese-born comedian, who is the most followed TikTok user in the world, has lived in Italy since he was one and has said he “always felt Italian”.
Lame turned to TikTok after losing his job in a factory when Italy went into lockdown at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, going on to attract nearly 150 million followers so far with his videos in which he mocks viral content with his trademark exasperated expression.
He was notified of his citizenship by the Italian interior ministry on 8 June, a couple of weeks before overtaking the American social media star Charli D’Amelio, to be crowned the world’s top TikTok user.
Lame, who has retained his Senegalese passport, told reporters he felt “very proud” of the citizenship and felt “a great responsibility for the oath I took”.
It comes amid a longstanding political debate over whether to grant citizenship at birth to children born in Italy to foreign parents, regardless of their parents’ citizenship, thus bringing Italy into line with other European countries. Currently, children born in Italy to foreign parents can only apply from the age of 18.
The theme, known as Ius Soli (“right of the soil”), has been among the priority policies of the centre-left Democratic party (PD) for years, but reforms to citizenship laws have never managed to reach a vote in parliament, even when the PD led the government between 2013 and 2018.
Each time the topic is raised, it provokes a fiery reaction from the far-right Brothers of Italy and League, which are tipped to win general elections on 25 September in alliance with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
When Roberto Speranza, the health minister and politician with a small leftwing, progressive group said this week that Ius Soli would be a priority, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Brothers of Italy – who could be Italy’s next prime minister – responded: “Ius Soli is one of the main objectives of the left … their priorities always remain the same, far from the realities and needs of Italians.”
In a previous interview with La Repubblica, Lame said: “It’s not right that someone who lives and grows up with the Italian culture for so many years and is clean, still does not have the right to citizenship. And I don’t only speak for myself.”