Portugal is preparing legislation that would grant citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled from the country in the 15th century, Lisbon’s tourism minister said, in an echo of a similar move recently announced by Spain.
Portuguese Minister of Tourism Adolfo Musquite Nunes, who visited Israel this month to promote his country as a vacation destination, told a Portuguese news station Saturday night that the final version of the legislation, which has already passed one reading in the Portuguese parliament, would be ready in the summer.
The new citizenship law seeks to redress the expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1497 and their subsequent persecution during the Portuguese Inquisition, which began in 1536. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, expelled or forced to convert to Christianity.
The law, which has been in the works for several weeks, would allow Portuguese citizenship for Jews whose ancestors were forced out of Portugal or were forcibly converted to Christianity, according to a Sunday report in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Many of these families ended up in the Portuguese colonies or subsequently fled to other parts of Europe, especially Amsterdam.
The Portuguese Jewish community has maintained records of such families, and these, together with Inquisition records, will be used in part to determine who will qualify for Portuguese citizenship, according to the Yedioth report.
Many of those expelled from Portugal in 1497 were actually Jews who had been expelled from neighboring Spain in 1492 and had found temporary refuge in Portugal. Spain last week said it would soon pass a new law granting citizenship in the European Union country to descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 or forced to convert to Christianity. The move could give nearly half the world’s 13 million Jews the chance to claim Spanish citizenship, the Associated Press reported.
Portuguese ambassador to Israel Miguel de Almeida e Sousa said that the new law would have “clear guidelines” as to who would qualify, so that the process would be “fair to everyone” who applied for citizenship. “We are talking about 15 generations in the past,” he added.