Portugal: 500 years after Inquisition Jews are back

First naturalization of Sephardic descendants

14 October, 10:41

    Our Lady of Fatima Our Lady of Fatima

    (by Francesco Cerri) - MADRID - The government of Lisbon has announced it has given citizenship to the first descendants of Sephardic Jews chased from the country with an edict in 1496. These are the first naturalizations granted according to a law of ''compensation'' passed at the beginning of the year by the Portuguese parliament.

    Portugal and Spain have decided almost simultaneously this year to offer a form of compensation to the families of those who suffered the consequences of the Inquisition, granting them citizenship.

    Portugal has already received 200 applications. Two Jewish brothers from Panama whose ancestors lived in Lisbon before they were expelled in 1497 were among the first to be granted Portuguese and European citizenship. In Spain, where the law came into effect at the beginning of October, the government took an immediate gesture towards the Jewish community, granting nationality to 4,302 Sephardic Jews mostly from Morocco, Turkey and Venezuela whose ancestors were chased with the 1492 edict by the very Catholic kings of Aragon and Castile. They had already applied for citizenship, based on a previous law.

    No official data is currently available but, according to data quoted by El Pais, Spanish Sephardic descendants could be two million worldwide with large communities in Israel, the US, France and Argentina.

    Most of those forced to leave Spain fled 500 years ago to the Ottoman empire or other countries in the Middle East or North Africa. The Spanish law, which is stricter and has been effective for three years now, provides for the following requirements to get citizenship, without applicants having to relinquish the one they already have: knowledge of the language, culture and current situation in the country, as well as the presentation of documents confirming their origin. Interest is high in Israel for Spanish and Portuguese passports opening the door to the EU, the largest market in the world.

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