The case hit the headlines last year when Salvatore and Antonia Scanio and their three children, who have lived in Nyon for a decade and Switzerland for much longer, were judged to have failed to meet the requirements for Swiss citizenship.
Such was the media attention that interior minister Alain Berset, the current Swiss president, even intervened, offering the couple his support.
The situation dates to October last year when the couple sat before a naturalization commission for an interview which they said was more like an interrogation, reported Swiss media.
The interview was deemed unsatisfactory and their citizenship application was suspended, a decision that for Geneva-born Salvatore, was hard to take.
“That my country considers me unworthy of being a citizen is a wound that will be difficult to heal,” he told Le Temps in December.
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The Scanios were offered a second chance to sit before the commission and be questioned again, but they refused, not wishing to once again suffer through an experience that made them feel humiliated and mistreated, according to Le Temps.
On Monday Nyon city authorities examined the family’s case and made their formal decision based on the naturalization commission’s findings. The outcome: Salvatore Scanio and the couple’s children are granted citizenship, but not Antonia Scanio, reported Le Temps.
It is, according to Nyon’s mayor Daniel Rossellat, only the second refusal in four years out of 700 citizenship applications.
Why the change of heart for Salvatore Scanio? “Until now the couple was treated collectively, as they wished,” explained president of the commission Stéphanie Schmutz to the Tribune de Genève.
But when making a formal decision on the case the authorities looked at the files separately “and it was clear that the man had the right to citizenship. He fulfilled the demands of cantonal law. But not his wife,” she said.
According to the press, Antonia Scanio, who has lived in Switzerland since the age of 18, failed to answer questions relating to the geography, history and institutions of Switzerland, including being unable to name all three rivers whose source is in Switzerland.
The questions were, according to Le Temps, drawn from a booklet that citizenship candidates are given to prepare for the interview.
Speaking to the paper, Salvatore Scanio said his wife knew the answers but became flustered due to the “sarcastic and scornful” attitude of the interview panel.
Notes from the interview show that both husband and wife met the crucial criteria for integration and language skills, said the paper.
The family will now consider appealing the decision in the civil courts.
“The town has only done half the job,” Salvatore Scanio told the Tribune. “The decision is unacceptable in our view.”
The case once again shines a light on Switzerland’s strict but sometimes arbitrary citizenship rules, which differ from canton to canton.
In 2017 a 42-year-old Dutch woman was initially refused citizenship despite living in Switzerland since the age of eight and speaking fluent Swiss-German because local residents objected to her media campaigning against cowbells. She was later granted citizenship on appeal.
And in 2014 an American man who had lived in Switzerland for 43 years was turned down for citizenship by a naturalization committee who judged him to be insufficiently integrated.