Spain’s parliament on Thursday ruled in favour of allowing descendants of Sephardic Jews to apply for Spanish citizenship, following five centuries since their ancestors were exiled from the country.
The law could reach over 3.5 million people of Sephardic Jews whose families are now in Israel, the US, Argentina, and various European countries, who now have the right to become citizens. Those who apply do not have to give up their current citizenship to do so.
Current predictions from the Spanish government and Jewish groups indicate less Sephardic Jews will apply, anticipating only tens of thousands of applications.
The law was brought into debate by Spain’s centre-right government, nonetheless it has strong historic significance more than 500 years after the Spanish Catholic Monarch under the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella exiled Jews and Muslims to convert or get expelled from country.
Prior to 1492, 300,000 Jews lived in Spain. The Jews initially moved there from North Africa whereas the Ashkenazi Jews of northern Europe moved to Spain from Northern Europe. The Sephardic Jewish populations were a major presence in medieval cities like Toledo and Cordoba.
"Today we are passing a law that will re-open the door for all the descendants of those who were so unfairly expelled," Minister of Justice Rafael Catala said to parliament.
The applications for citizenship will start in October and will stay open for the next three years. The candidates must provide evidence for their Sephardic Jewish background and prove their association with Spain which includes passing a language test and general knowledge examination on Spanish culture and politics.