Spain to ap­prove cit­i­zen­ship mea­sures for Sephardic Jews

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY DANIEL SILVA

Span­ish law­mak­ers were set Thurs­day to give fi­nal ap­proval to a law to right a “his­tor­i­cal mis­take” and ease the path to cit­i­zen­ship for the descen­dants of Jews it ex­pelled in 1492.

The mea­sure, cham­pi­oned by the cen­ter-right gov­ern­ment, grants dual cit­i­zen­ship rights for Jews with Span­ish an­ces­try, who are known as Sephardic Jews.

Un­der the pre­vi­ous 1924 law the gov­ern­ment had dis­cre­tionary pow­ers to award Sephardic Jews na­tion­al­ity but can­di­dates had give up their pre­vi­ous cit­i­zen­ship and they had to be res­i­dents of Spain.

The new law gives Sephardic Jews the same dual cit­i­zen­ship priv­i­lege Spain cur­rently grants only to peo­ple from its for­mer colonies and neigh­bor­ing Por­tu­gal and An­dorra.

The bill — which was in­tro­duced last year and which the gov­ern­ment said was an ef­fort to right a “his­tor­i­cal mis­take” — has the sup­port of all ma­jor par­ties and it is ex­pected to pass fi­nal read­ing in the lower house of par­lia­ment by a wide mar­gin.

“This is a his­toric day, an im­por- tant day, an emo­tional day,” the pres­i­dent of the Span­ish Fed­er­a­tion of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties, Isaac Querub, told jour­nal­ists on the steps of par­lia­ment ahead of the vote.

“It is a day of hope, a day of joy and we hope that this will make Spain a bet­ter place,” added Querub, whose an­ces­tors took refuge in North Africa af­ter they were ex­pelled from Spain.

The Span­ish gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates that about 90,000 peo­ple will ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship, although of­fi­cials ad­mit there is no pre­cise way of know­ing how many descen­dants meet the cri­te­ria.

Ap­pli­cants do not have to be prac­tic­ing Jews but they must have their Jewish her­itage vet­ted by the Span­ish Fed­er­a­tion of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties or by rab­bis where they live.

They will also have to pass tests on Span­ish lan­guage cul­ture, prove they have a “spe­cial con­nec­tion” to Spain and travel to the coun­try at their own ex­pense to ap­ply.

The law will come into ef­fect in Oc­to­ber and will ex­pire af­ter three years although it could be ex­tended by an­other year if deemed nec­es­sary.

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