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Spain OKs bill for Jewish return

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(JTA) — Spain’s Jewish community congratulated the government for approving a bill proposing to facilitate the naturalization of Sephardic Jews of Spanish descent.

On Friday, Spain’s government approved the bill, which was filed last month by the ruling Popular Party and proposes to amend previous legislation that allowed for granting citizenship to Sephardic Jews who chose to apply for it.

Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities, or FCJE, said in a statement Friday that it welcomed the move.

“Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon has kept his word,” FCJE wrote in the statement.

The bill proposes to allow dual nationality, enabling those who can prove Sephardic ancestry to also retain their other citizenships. Reports about the bill did not say when it would go up for a vote by lawmakers of Spain’s Congress of Deputies.

Spain already granted citizenship to individuals who applied based on previous naturalization laws for Sephardic Jews, but had no procedure in place to process such requests, the Terra Espana news site reported Friday.

Ruiz-Gallardon said the measure smooths the bureaucracy involved in obtaining Spanish citizenship. Applicants must be vetted by the government and FCJE.

Ruiz-Gallardon announced his intention to introduce new legislation in November 2012. His party, the Popular Party, introduced the bill in December 2013 after Portugal passed its own law of Jewish return in July.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Spain and Portugal during the 15th and 16th centuries when they were persecuted by the Catholic Church and the royal houses of both countries.

Last month, the initiator of the Portuguese law, lawmaker Jose Ribeiro e Castro, urged the government to draft regulations to allow its implementation. Portuguese law gives the government 90 days to draft regulations for laws passed, but this did not happen in the case of Portugal’s law of return, the Lusa news agency reported on Jan. 20.

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