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Sephardic Jews to be allowed dual citizenship

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Sephardic Jews to be allowed dual citizenship
A postcard of a Sephardi Jewish couple from Sarajevo, photo taken in 1900. File photo: Historijski Muzej Sarajevo/Wikipedia
13:32 CEST+02:00
Spain is set to make it even easier for descendants of Spain's Sephardic Jews to obtain Spanish citizenship by doing away with a requirement that they renounce other citizenships they hold.

In February Spain passed a draft law which would mean the descendants of Jews banished from Spain in 1492 can take up Spanish nationality.

While this legislation is yet to be passed by Spain's parliament, the announcement has sparked plenty on interest, with members of this group making enquires at Spanish embassies worldwide.

The February version of the draft bill, however, contained a major stumbling block: people taking up Spanish citizenship would have to renounce their other citizenship except in the cases of a few countries from South America.

On Friday, however, Spain's parliament approved another version of the draft law.

"The law will allow dual nationality," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting.    

Under this latest version it will be possible for Spanish Jews to hold dual citizenship, even in cases where this previously not been possible, Spanish daily El País reported on Friday.

The draft law opens two routes to citizenship to descendants of Spain's Jews. They can either be accredited as a Sephardic Jew by Spain's Federation of Jewish Communities and spend two years in the country, or — in exceptional circumstances — be granted citizenship in a discretional fashion by the Spanish government.

As the law has yet to be passed, however, the Federation of Jewish Communities are not yet accrediting individuals. 

Spanish Jews once made up one of the largest and wealthiest Jewish communities in Western Europe.

Jewish contact with the land once known as Iberia could date back to the time of King Solomon, around 950 BC.

Sephardic Jews in Spain were able to prosper and live in relative peace under both Muslim and Christian rule until Catholics Kings Ferdinand and Isabel issued the Alhambra Decree in 1492.

This resulted in forced conversions to Catholicism, killings and expulsion of all Sephardic Jews in Spain.

Spanish Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón referred to the new legislation as a reparation of what was “without a doubt one of the most significant mistakes in (Spanish) history”.

In November 2012, Gallardón said Spanish citizenship would be granted to all Sephardic Jews regardless of where they lived as long as they could provide evidence of this background and of links to the country. 

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