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Sephardic Jews Acquisition of Portuguese Nationality

Law 43/2013 passed on the 3rd of July by the Portuguese Parliament altered the Portuguese citizenship rules specifically for the purpose of granting unconditionally Portuguese citizenship to the descendants of the Portuguese Sephardic Jews unfairly expelled from Portugal at the end of the XV and early XVI centuries.

This Law is far more favorable than a similar law passed in Spain some time ago which requires to the descendents of Spanish Jews – expelled from Spain even before a similar tragedy occurred in Portugal- the Spanish nationality but only after a two-year period of residence in Spain among other conditions. In the case of the Portuguese law, the only requirements are that the applicant is a demonstrated:

(a) descend from a Jew expelled from Portugal evidenced by his or her connection with a Sephardic Jewish community of Portuguese origin which may be based on such objective facts such as use of a Portuguese or derived language, a Portuguese family name, etc.;

(b) at least 18 years old; and

(c) Has never been convicted for any crime or offence to which it corresponded a jail sentence of a maximum term equal or higher to 3 (three) years in accordance with Portuguese criminal law.

It should be noted that even the usual requirement for all other Portuguese naturalization regarding a basic knowledge of Portuguese language, history and culture is not applicable in the case of the grant of Portuguese citizenship to the descendents of Sephardic Jews once unfairly expelled from Portugal. In this respect, Portuguese law is also much more favorable than a similar law also passed in Greece covering a similar situation.

This law on the Portuguese naturalization of all descendents of Jews expelled most unfairly from Portugal in the late XV and early XVI centuries covers the descendents of all Jews forced to leave from Portugal to Turkey and The Netherlands and from the latter country, with the protection of the Dutch Company of Western Indies, to Brazil, United Kingdom, Egypt and North African countries and also those Jews from several origins who took part in the great enterprise of the foundation of New York City and who then spread throughout other parts of what would later become the United States and Canada.

The interesting feature about this Law 43/2013 of July, 3rd on the Naturalization of the Descendents of the Sephardic Jews expelled unfairly from Portugal on late XV and early XVI centuries is that it has been approved unanimously by the Portuguese Parliament after it has been introduced by means of a popular petition signed by thousands of Portuguese and Brazilian citizens whom gathered the necessary signatures required under the Portuguese Constitution to cause the Portuguese Parliament to consider and to vote such Law by popular citizens initiative. This Law came, thus, as a true and genuine emanation of the will of the civil society of Portugal and Brazil and that is a further reason for us to take a modest proud on this legal act.

Paulino Brilhante Santos, Partner of VCA, is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Portuguese Institute for Democracy (“IDP-Instituto da Democracia Portuguesa”), an independent, non-partisan think-tank devoted to social, philosophical, economic and international studies for human development and international co-operation based in Lisbon but with antennas in all Portuguese-speaking countries, including, naturally, Brazil. It was by the initiative of IDP that this Law on the naturalization of the Sephardic Jews was first launched in the public debate in Portugal and immediately after attracted the public attention also in Brazil where a large community of descendants of Sephardic Jews lives. Professor Mendo Castro Henriques, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IDP had a pivotal role in the public debate and in the organization with the collaboration of a task force of descendants of Sephardic Jews, associates to the IDP both in Portugal and in Brazil, to promote the public petition and to propose to the Parliament this Law. Its approval made a late, imperfect and, of course, merely symbolic, justice to the victims of one of the greatest public crimes ever committed in Portugal.

Law 43/2013 still needs to be implemented by means of a Naturalization Regulation to be approved by the Portuguese Government on or before 3 October 2013 and, thus, already overdue. IDP is fully committed to continue its efforts to ensure that this Regulation will be enacted in a manner as favorable as the Law and has and will continue to lobby before the Portuguese Government to such end. A commitment we share at Valadas Coriel & Associados. Especially when we learned that only in Turkey, by example, could be more than 20,000 Sephardic Jews qualifying for Portuguese citizenship under this Law 40/2013.

No public apologies or even reparations like the one pursued by this Law or others within our limited human power could even remotely compensate or repair such gross and violent injustice. All that we, Portuguese people, can expect is that the descendents of the victims may find in their hearts the generosity to take back the Portuguese citizenship which is theirs and which should have never been taken away from their ancestors and from themselves. This is why for us this is not just another Law in which launch and drafting one of the partners of Valadas Coriel & Associados has collaborated. This is a Law that must be enforced.

Valadas Coriel & Associados is more than prepared to guarantee a professional service to Clients wishing not to acquire, not even to regain but merely to confirm their lawful and legitimate Portuguese citizenship.

 

João Valadas Coriel
Paulino Brilhante Santos