The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has fuelled an 80-fold increase in the number of British Sephardic Jews seeking Portuguese citizenship under a recent law intended to make amends for their ancestors’ expulsion from the Iberian peninsula more than 500 years ago.
Last year both Spain and Portugal brought in legislation to facilitate the return of the descendants of the thousands of Jews who were forced from the countries at the end of the 15th century.
The Spanish government said the offer of citizenship was intended to right the “historical wrong” that saw the country’s Jewish community exiled, forced to convert to Catholicism or burned at the stake. Portugal said that while there was no way to make up for what had been done, the offer of citizenship represented “an attribution of a right”.
In the wake of June’s Brexit vote, however, a rapidly increasing number of British Sephardic Jews have been applying for Portuguese citizenship as a way to deal with the uncertainty created by the leave victory.
According to the Jewish Community of Oporto – which, along with the Lisbon Jewish community, is certifying applicants – demand from the UK has soared since 23 June.