A Jewish umbrella body in Spain has expressed “profound gratitude” after the country's government extended the deadline for a citizenship law for descendants of Sephardim who fled the Inquisition.
In a statement on its website, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FCJE) said it “thanks the Government of Spain for the decision taken on Friday, March 9, 2018, to extend the deadline for a year for Sephardic descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 to apply for Spanish nationality.”
The law, which was passed in 2015, allows Sephardi Jews to obtain Spanish citizenship without having to be resident in the country.
It was due to expire later in 2018 but the government announced on Friday that applications would be accepted until October 1, 2019.
Iñigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain's Education, Culture and Sport Minister, said in a press conference that the law represented “a meeting point between modern Spaniards and the descendants of those who were unjustly expelled in 1492”.
“Regarding the intolerance of the past, the measure aims to jointly build a new space for co-habitation and harmony that permanently reopens the door of their ancient country to those communities who were expelled from Spain,” he said, according to the ANSA agency.
Nearly 6,500 Sephardic Jews have obtained Spanish citizenship since the law came into force on October 1, 2015.
The majority of requests in 2017 came from Venezuela with 254, while there were 202 Israeli and 146 Mexican applicants.
There is also understood to be significant interest from Turkish citizens, as many fled from Spain to Istanbul in the 15th Century.
Tens of thousands of Jews left Spain during the mass expulsion of 1492, which the government has termed an “historic mistake”.
Many of those who remained were killed or forced to convert to Catholicism.