Lisbon Jewish community will continue to process citizenship requests

The Jewish community in Lisbon released an official document earlier this month announcing a return to full activity after ceasing to issue new permits for Portuguese citizenship processes.

 Flag of Portugal (illustrative). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Flag of Portugal (illustrative).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Lisbon Jewish community is returning to Portuguese citizenship procedures, after a period of uncertainty.

The Jewish community in Lisbon (Lisbon Israeli Community, CIL) released an official document earlier this month announcing a return to full activity after ceasing to issue new permits for Portuguese citizenship processes since March. It was further announced that all applications submitted so far to the community and those submitted by August 31 will be dealt with according to the old and mitigating criteria of the Portuguese Citizenship Act.

The Portuguese Citizenship Law enacted in 2013 allows Jews who are descendants of deportees from Spain and Portugal to obtain citizenship. The role of the CIL is to verify the origin of the applicants and to confirm that they are entitled to it. But the Lisbon community has suspended processing of new applications submitted since mid-March, after the government announced it intends to change the criteria of the law.

According to the document, community representatives contacted the Portuguese Justice Ministry in March “three times” and asked for “orderly instructions” that would clarify who is eligible to become a citizen under the new criteria. "Our requests have not been answered and we are considering going to court," they wrote at the time.

The amendments to the law stipulated that as of September 1, citizenship applicants will be required to present a special affiliation to Portugal and, as part of this, a property inheritance in Portugal, a capital right inheritance or alternatively repeated visits to the country for life. The CIL has announced that it will not require such evidence until August 31, when the law is due to be activated.

 Itai Mor (credit: Alona Avisdaris) Itai Mor (credit: Alona Avisdaris)

 ITAI MOR, founder of the Portuguese Passport Club, told The Jerusalem Post that "the Lisbon Jewish community’s announcement illustrates that progress can still be made in the process of obtaining a Portuguese passport and citizenship.

 “There is a lot of inaccurate information on the subject," he said. "It is important to note that during the month of May, we continued to receive official certificates – and even approval from the Jewish community that new cases filed in the last three months have been received.”

"It is important to note that during the month of May, we continued to receive official certificates – and even approval from the Jewish community that new cases filed in the last three months have been received."

Itai Mor

 Mor explained that there are many voices claiming that the changes the government wants to make to the law are “illegal,” and therefore, “there is a chance that they will be interpreted mitigatingly or not enforced."

 The Portugal News reported that the community's leader José Ruah said that "the CIL would like to be able to speak to the justice minister. We have already made three requests for a hearing, and there has been no acknowledgment of receipt of our requests.”

Ruah said, according to the newspaper, that "in the past, we always managed to talk to those we needed to talk to. And not only that – they came to ask for our opinion. Now, we have deafening silence. We all make mistakes. But we can correct our mistakes. It is not bad to correct our mistakes."

The Abramovich connection

The Post revealed on March 15 that the religious leader of the Jewish community in Porto, Daniel Litvak, is banned from leaving Portugal, and is required to periodically present himself to the authorities, after being detained on suspicion of corruption.

The Portuguese media reported that he was arrested by the National Anti-Corruption Unit of the Polícia Judiciária (investigation police). As a result of the investigation, several applications in progress by Sephardi Jews to obtain Portuguese citizenship will be endangered by the Roman Abramovich case. Abramovich, who is regarded as being very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been sanctioned in the West, especially in the United Kingdom, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Since 2015, more than 137,000 Jews have applied for Portuguese nationality as permitted by law, and more than 57,000 of them have received it. These new Portuguese citizens can thus reunite with their historical and cultural heritage.