Yoram Zara is an attorney with offices in Israel and Portugal. Yoram has an LLM in International law and specializes in Portugal Sephardi Citizenship. Yoram’s family immigrated to Israel from Turkey. He is decedent to the Baruch, Sasson and Habib families. Yoram has extensive knowledge of Sephardi history and culture. Yoram is well acquainted with the procedure and people of the Jewish communities in Portugal.
Summary translation from the original in Portuguese found here
Changes in the Nationality Law were approved by a Council of Ministers on Thursday 20 April 2017. The acquisition of Portuguese nationality will be facilitated to minors descending from Sephardic Jews expelled from Portugal in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The decree will enter in force in the first month after the date of the publication and will fill in a gap that existed since 2015, when this alterations were approved for the first time by the Government lead by Pedro Passos Coelho. The State Secretary, Jose Luiz Carneiro, stated: “This is a measure that has long been requested”. According to Jose Luis Carneiro, the law now approved “will end of the inequality between minors and adults in the granting of nationality by naturalization to the descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews.” The decree approved cancels the requirement of demonstrating a special link to Portugal that was previously required from minors.
Jewish communities applaud
In a joint public notice on Thursday, the Jewish communities of Lisbon and Porto welcomed “the amendment to the Regulation of the Nationality Law” which, they emphasized, “puts an end to the need for minors to prove an ‘effective link’ to Portugal which they could not demonstrate because their ancestors were forced to abandon Portugal. “
Translation form the original in French found here.
The Jewish community is leaving Turkey slowly, but surely. This religious minority is worried by the increase of violence and by the hardening of the regime. One third of its members have already begun the process of becoming Israeli citizens, but also Portuguese and Spanish. These are two countries who have banished them five centuries ago, but who agree to give them citizenship today.
The nationalist and Islamist pressure of the AKP, president Erdogan’s party, worries the small Turkish Jewish community, mainly gathered in Istanbul. After the increase of violence and anti-Semitism, an important number of 15,000 members of this community are considering leaving their country. The community has already lost 9,000 members over twenty years.
After the coup d’état attempted in July 2016, the repression against the followers of Fethullah Gülen (accused of being behind the putsch) has expanded to the whole Turkish society. 140,000 people have been excluded from the administration: judges, teachers, journalists, academics, police officers, military men, elected members… The Jewish community, discreet and legitimist, is yet not spared by this climate of violence.
Most of all the community fears a new wave of anti-Semitism, which could be instrumentalized by the government or by the Islamic groups. Back in 2003, hundreds of Jews have left the country after the attacks committed in front of two synagogues in Istanbul. The attack, claimed by a Turkish group related to Al-Qaeda, resulted in 43 deaths.
After the victory of Yes in the constitutional referendum, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has full power more than ever. The state of emergency proclamation has already allowed him to silence the opposition and to shut down hundreds of associations, such as the ones known for defending human rights. 47,000 magistrates, military men and police officers have been imprisoned.
This is the harmful political climate from which the Jewish-Turkish community tries to find a way out. 4,000 of its members have begun the process of becoming Portuguese or Spanish citizens. The Portuguese and Spanish parliaments have decided (in 2014) to grant citizenships to the descendants of the Sephardic Jews who have been evicted during the Inquisition. Historians estimate that at least 200,000 Jews were living in the Iberian Peninsula when Isabella the Catholic ordered them to convert or to leave, after years of persecution. The Jews from Spain, who had been living in the country with the Muslims and Christians for centuries, were forced to leave in a couple of weeks and they received an interdiction of coming back. The ones who refused were burned in the public square.
Return to Lisbon
The decisions aim to fix a «historical error» and to also attract a dynamic and resourceful population. The laws of «nationality reintegration» have been voted in 2013 and 2014, during the serious economic crisis which affected the Iberian Peninsula. According to Michael Rothwel, the representative of the Jewish community in Porto, «from the 3,000 nationality demands in Portugal, 500 Jews from Turkey have already received their new Portuguese passports», whereas the other demands are in progress. For the Jewish community of Istanbul, the return to the Portuguese or Spanish nationality is seen as an insurance against the increase of violence. This will also give them access to a precious European passport in these troubled times.
For the Jewish minority in Turkey, political repression which affects large sections of the population is added to the prevailing anti-Semitism. President Erdogan and the Turkish press regularly accuse a sibylline «lobby of interest taxes» for being detrimental to Turkey. The population understands they are targeting the Jewish community…
Less than two months after the referendum on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, there are already 400 British descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews who have applied for Portuguese nationality. This is a significant increase, since before referring only five approved a law of the nationality of 2015
The UK has voted to exit the European Union. There are now hundreds of British people that search their ancestry to obtain a European passport. In less than two months there are four hundred British descendants of Sephardic Jews that requested Portuguese nationality. This is a considerable increase since before the referendum only five took advantage of the Nationality law. “We were expecting that after the Brexit vote on the 23rd of June, there would be, from the British people a desire to keep their nationality, and a wish to remain in the EU”. Michael Rothwell is a member on the board of Porto’s Jewish community and he says he was expecting these requests to begin. “In respect to Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descendants there is an opportunity, created by the Nationality law of 2015 that allows descendants of Portuguese Sephardic Jews that are part of a Sephardic community to request Portuguese nationality”. The certificates that authenticate the origin are issued by the Jewish communities in Portugal. According to the law, the certificates are given by the two Jewish communities, of Porto and Lisbon Only the Jewish community can determine whether a person is a Sephardic Jew or a descendant of Sephardic Jews. Sephardic Jews are Jews of Portuguese or Spanish origin, that were exiled from Portugal in the fifteenth century and that can now return. You can not fix History, but the future can be written differently. Michael ensures that these 400 requests do not mean that they want to return to Portugal but requesting nationality is a strong proof of an affective bond to Portugal.
Translated from the original in Portuguese found here
The number of requests to obtain Portuguese nationality has reached the highest value of the last seven years in 2016, totaling 35,416, according to the Annual Report of Internal Safety data (ARIS).
The 2016 report informs that of 35,416 requests to obtain Portuguese nationality, the Immigration and Borders Service has issued 27,155 decisions on the matter, 26,061 were positive and 1,094 negative.
The report indicates that the citizens who requested Portuguese nationality last year were mainly from Brazil (10,063), Cape Verde (3,126), Ukraine (2,352), Turkey (1,704) and Angola (1,470).
There are also a requests from Guinea Bissau (1,406), India (925), Israel (891) Sao Tomé and Principe (832), Moldavia (498), Romania (367), Pakistan (317), Russia (296), Nepal (268) and Mozambique (266).
The significant increase of Portuguese nationality requests made by citizens from Israel and Turkey is related to the regulation of Portuguese nationality of foreigners who are descendants from Portuguese Sephardic Jews.
According to ARIS, most of requests are related to the acquisition of nationality by naturalization (70%) and through marriage or more than three years partnership with a Portuguese citizen (14%).
Most of requests made through marriage concern native people from Brazil (2,015), Cape Verde (381), Guinea-Bissau (233), India (216) and Moldavia (132).
The report indicates that “the number of negative information has increased for the past two years as a result of more requests made by the Central Registry Office investigate regarding the existence or not of marriages of convenience or fraudulent marriages as a way of acquiring Portuguese nationality”.
About 400 Sephardic Jews are requesting Portuguese nationality. Almost all requests arrived after the Brexit results. Most want to keep a European passport and the freedom of movement.
The Brexit referendum planted the seeds of uncertainty among the British Sephardi Jews. “Up until the Brexit referendum we had only 5 requests, which is understandable because at that time the British had European Union passports, and didn’t need the Portuguese passport, except for emotional reasons”.
There is an emotional motivation, but in most cases, the Sephardi Jews that want the Portuguese passport only want to make sure that they will be able to move freely in the European Union after the Brexit. The Jewish community in Porto have about 400 requests for the certification needed to ask for Portuguese nationality.
“Nowadays, people in the United Kingdom, and in other countries of the European Union,
they see themselves as European first and don’t want to lose that part of their identity”.
The Sephardi Jews have to prove first that they are really Sephardi, and then that they have a connection to Portugal. ”
Usually through their Rabi, through their communities, they can prove that they are Sephardi.
Then, the connection to Portugal is many times established through their family tree, their parents and grandparents, etc. Sometimes because they speak Ladino, which is a Spanish-Portuguese medieval Jewish language that is still spoken in some places in the world”.
The British Sephardi community is trying to take advantage of the 2015 law that allows. the descendants of the Jews that were thrown out of the country over 500 years ago to ask for Portuguese citizenship.