Portugal’s parliament has advanced a bill that would repeal the country’s citizenship law for descendants of Sephardic Jews who were deported during the Spanish Inquisition. After a contentious debate, the bill, which might go into force on January 1, passed its first reading on Friday with backing from the government’s Socialist Party. The Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms, and Guarantees will conduct its next examination and potential change.
Justice Minister Catarina Sarmento e Castro, speaking in parliament on Monday, said the citizenship law had been a “proper recognition” and a “duty of historical reparation.” But he said it had served its purpose, saying it was “a symbolic gesture intended to mark a recognition that it has been accomplished through a generous time window.” The debate in Parliament in the coming weeks could extend the application deadline to December 31, 2024.
According to the new data, by the end of 2022, approximately 262,000 individuals had applied for naturalization under the law, and approximately 75,000 were granted citizenship. More than 74,000 people applied last year, even after the stricter law came into effect in September 2022. Notably, about 21,000 applicants were Israeli citizens, according to data from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service.
Objections were expressed by some members of Parliament about the move to close the citizenship route. Liberal Initiative Party representative Patricia Gilavaz argued against scrapping the law so early, suggesting postponing it until 2025. Pedro Delgado Alves of the Socialist Party acknowledged the need for a review and suggested requiring applicants to have three years of residence in Portugal.