'UK Jews seeking Portuguese citizenship surged 80-fold after Brexit'

In the two months following the June 23 vote, a Jewish community in Portugal reportedly received some 400 applications compared to just 5 prior to the UK's split from the EU.

January 2, 2017 14:44
1 minute read.
Portuguese Electronic Passport (PEP)

Portuguese Electronic Passport (PEP). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Britain's decision to leave the European Union in the so-called "Brexit" vote in June spurred an 80-fold jump in the number of British Jews seeking Portuguese nationality under a law of return, according to a UK media report this weekend.

The Jewish Community of Porto in Portugal had allegedly received a mere five applications to certify the Sephardic ancestry, or Jewish roots originating from the Iberian Peninsula, of prospective Portuguese citizens before Brexit, according to the UK's Guardian.

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In the two months following the June 23 vote however, the Jewish community reportedly received some 400 applications.

“I think people are a bit nervous about this and therefore feel that having a European Union passport would be an advantage even if they are not necessarily planning to move to Portugal,” community liaison Dr. Michael Rothwell was quoted as saying. “Having citizenship of an EU country has its benefits.”

The population of Sephardic Jewry in the UK is estimated to be in the thousands, although there are no precise figures.

The Guardian report also cited the executive director of the S&P Sephardi Community in London as saying the organization's archivists have also noted a increase in inquires on delineating Sephardic background.

“One hundred per cent, the minute Brexit happened, we definitely saw an increase in volume and I think it’s continuing,” The Guardian quoted Alison Rosen as saying.

Last year, both Portugal and Spain approved laws of return to facilitate the naturalization process for the descendants of Jews who were expelled from the region five centuries ago during the Inquisition.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Iberia from 1492 on because of Church-led persecution.

While interest in obtaining Portuguese citizenship has allegedly risen, Spain's Federation of Jewish Community has reportedly not witnessed such a trend in applications from the UK after Brexit.

Under the Spanish law, prospective citizens would have to prove their ancestry and prove they have a basic knowledge of Spain and its culture.

They will also be required to visit the country at least once and, according to reports, will be required to pay an application fee of 100 euros.

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