Law awarding citizenship to Sephardic Jews has “turned into a business”

The 2015 law promising citizenship to people who could prove they are descended from Sephardic Jews who fled Portugal during the Inquisition has turned into a business venture. As such PS Socialists have decided it has to be changed.

A new amendment put forward this week seeks to limit any naturalisation from 2022 to applicants who have “current and effective connections with Portugal”.

Initially, the wording was much tougher. Applicants would have had to have stayed legally in Portugal “for at least two years” and have knowledge of the language.

Explained the Jewish Chronicle, that change would have “drastically limited the ability of non-EU applicants to benefit from the law”, which used to be open to anyone under its original wording and subsequent regulations.

The revised wording will still limit applications, but it could see the country positively benefiting from those who actually do apply.

Said Constança Urbano de Sousa, the PS bench deputy and a former minister of interior, ‘current and effective connections’ imply a residency permit (which of course involves some considerable investment).

But it seems the nation’s Jewish community is totally comfortable with whatever changes transpire

Said the Chronicle, the PS consulted with the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto – who vet all applications coming in from ‘descendants’ – and it was they themselves who “expressed concern over the transformation of the process into a business involving lawyers and genealogists”.

Expresso carried a story last week explaining how 50,000 people have applied for Portuguese citizenship since the law came into effect; at least 10,000 have been successful.

As the paper explained, Spain also passed a law of return for descendants of Sephardic Jews forced to flee five centuries ago. But it expired last year.

Portugal’s law, up till now, has been open-ended and “less demanding” in that it doesn’t require applicants to demonstrate knowledge of Portuguese or Spanish, or even have any attachment to Portuguese culture. (The Spanish law stipulated some form of attachment to Spanish culture).

As the amendment explains, this has meant that Israelis and Turks particularly have sought naturalisation, almost all of them “neither living in Portugal or having ties to it”.

For now, the change still has to be voted through parliament.

Explain all reports, there are many MPs against it – and some ‘heavy political hitters’ (former ministers/ MPs and even presidential candidates), who wrote a letter of protest to Público last week. Everything points however to the amendment passing and the law becoming quite a bit more demanding.

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