Spain Grants Naturalization Privileges to Sephardic Jews

A change in provisions regarding acquisition of citizenship in Spain, approved unanimously by the Congress of Deputies, grants special privileges to Sephardic Jews, it was reported here by the Institute of Jewish Affairs (I JA), the research arm of the World Jewish Congress. The bill now goes before Spain’s Senate.

According to the IJA, the new legislation would significantly ease residence requirements of Sephardic Jews for naturalization. The IJA noted that “the proposed measure is regarded not only as a recognition of the connection of the Sephardic with Spain but also as an act of reparation for the wrongs of 1492,” the year of Jewish expulsion from Spain.

At present, the Spanish civil code stipulates a 10-year residence requirement for naturalization. The proposed amendment, however, states: “Two years will suffice in the case of nationals of Latin American countries, Andorra, Philippines, Equatorial Guinea or in the case of Sephardim who are able to produce proof of their status.” A certificate of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, member community of the WJC, will be sufficient to prove Sephardic status.

IMPACT OF THE AMENDMENTS

The actual impact of this amendment on the numbers of Sephardic Jews who would benefit will probably not be very great. Most Sephardic Jews residing in Spain, who came from French or Spanish Morrocco, or Tongiers, have been residents in Spain for more than 10 years and mostly have already acquired Spanish citizenship.

However, the IJA observes that it is not the first time that Spain has shown her special attachment to the Sephardic Jews. During World War II, the Spanish government assisted them in several Nazi-occupied countries. A post-war official publication claimed that the government gave its diplomatic representatives abroad full power “to do anything, at any time, to help the descendants of these people (Jews) who had been expelled from Spain four hundred years ago.”

In one instance, Spain even succeeded in obtaining the liberation from the Belsen concentration camp of 365 Sephardim deported there from Salonika, and permission for their emigration to Spain. Similar rescue efforts for Sephardic Jews were also made after the war in countries where they found themselves in distress.

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