Portugal: Thousands enquire over Jewish 'return rights'

The Kadoorie synagogue in Porto Image copyright Wikimedia/Bricking
Image caption The Oporto Jewish community says it has accepted the first 21 applications for Portuguese citizenship

Thousands of descendants of Sephardic Jews have enquired about obtaining Portuguese citizenship since new rules were brought in earlier this year, it's reported.

In January, the cabinet approved a law reversing the expulsion of their ancestors in the 15th century, and the government has now issued a document setting out how people can become citizens and "integrate into the national community with all the rights and obligations this entails," the Jornal de Noticias reports. More than 5,000 people from around the world have contacted Oporto's Jewish community in the past two months to enquire about the process, and the first 21 applications have already been approved, spokesman Michael Rothwell tells the paper. Among those 21 are people from as far afield as Panama, Australia and China. Applicants must obtain a certificate confirming their ancestry from one of the country's two small Jewish communities in Lisbon and Oporto, as well as documents proving they have no criminal record.

The king of Portugal ordered the expulsion or forced conversion of the Jewish community in 1496 under Spanish pressure, and hundreds of thousands fled persecution in subsequent years for the Ottoman Empire, the Netherlands and the Americas. In January, Justice Minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz said the new law was "not historical redress, as it is impossible to undo what was done". She described it as "the granting of a right" at a time when anti-Semitism is "raging in Europe".

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