Portugal open to citizenship applications by descendants of Sephardic Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The government of Portugal published its procedure for handling applications for citizenship based on the country’s law of return for descendants of Sephardic Jews.

The new procedure, finalized on Friday and effective as of Sunday, is based on legislation passed in 2013 and establishes the entitlement of descendants of Sephardic Jews to Portuguese nationality that was deprived of them due to religious and racist persecution as of 1492, the year that is widely accepted as the beginning of the Inquisition.

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It forced hundreds of thousands of Jews to emigrate under duress.

“The following document will allow the realization of the right of return to Jewish Sephardic descendants of Portuguese origin who desire, through acquiring Portuguese nationality by naturalization, to integrate into the national community with all the inherent rights and obligation this entails,” reads the new decree of law, which was published Monday and whose serial number is 30-A/2015.

Spain has initiated similar legislation for similar reasons but its Congress has not yet voted on any bill.

Titled “Concession on Portuguese Nationality by Naturalization to Descendants of Sephardic Jews,” the new regulation stipulates that applicants must present a document issued by a Portugal-based Portuguese community attesting as to their Portuguese Sephardic ancestry. The country has two officially recognized Jewish communities, Lisbon and Porto.

In addition, applicants must prove other personal documents through a notary, including proof that they have no criminal record in their country of origin or residence.

The Jewish Community of Porto, which has published an English-language text for prospective applicants on its website, already has approved 21 applications, according to Michael Rothwell, who coordinates issues connected to citizenship for that community. Among the first applicants approved was Alfonso Paredes and his family from Panama, Rothwell said in a statement.

Other applicants include citizens of Turkey, Israel, the United States and some European Union countries.

“Israel is for Jews the land of return but in Europe, the best safe harbor for Jews is Portugal,” Rothwell said.

“Portugal is perhaps the only country in Europe where one can safely walk anywhere at any time while wearing a kippah,” a spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Porto added in a statement.