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Since March 2015, Jews living abroad have the right to obtain the Portuguese nationality if they can prove to be descendants from the Sephardic Jews –  Marranos – who were persecuted and banned from Portugal more than 500 years ago. At that time an estimated 200.000 were imposed to escape the Iberian peninsula and fled to the Ottoman Empire – present-day Turkey – North Africa and a smaller number to France, England and the Netherlands.

In the last four years over 37.000 Jews have applied for a passport. Around 20% succeeded in getting one, allowing them to travel visa-free in the EU. The requests mainly came from Israel and Turkey, but also from Brazil, Argentina, the US and more recently the UK due to Brexit.

The overwhelming majority of applicants from Israel are between 20 and 45 years old. ‘Many ask for it in view of their children – so that these can study in Europe – others for emotional reasons as if looking for a certain justice to be done’, declares Ruth Calvão, president of the Jewish Study Centre.
‘In the case of Turkey, the country’s political instability is important. People there no longer feel safe as Jews. If there is an opportunity to obtain a European passport, they go for it.’

Descendants to Muslims expelled from Portugal in 1496 now also want to be included in the amnesty, that has seen thousands of Sephardic Jews from all over the world reclaim their Portuguese nationality.

‘If there is a community of Muslims who have documents that prove they descend from Portuguese expelled, they should have the same right’, says David Munir, leader of the Lisbon mosque. ‘Indeed, it’s a question of equity and justice’, declares historian Filomena Barros from the Évora University in the newspaper Expresso.

Many of the expelled Jews have maintained the Portuguese language (or Ladino, a merger of Castilian and Portuguese), the religious and food rites of Jewish worship in Portugal and preserved family surnames, records, objects kept for generations and documents proving their Portuguese origin.

Muslims haven’t. They have instead been assimilated into North African populations at which it is difficult to prove whose family came from Portugal and whose not.

Aproveite a semana                    Enjoy the week                    (pic Público)

Permit

Portugal sells EU citizenship to corrupt millionaires, while thousands of refugees are knocking in vain on Europe’s door.

The waiter in restaurant São Pedro do Estoril speaks with that typical melodious accent. ‘You are right’, Liandro says. ‘I’ am not from here but from Belo Horizonte in Brazil. If I can keep up working in Portugal for five years, I’m allowed to apply for a passport and work all over Europe. The work is good and the people are nice, but I don’t know if I can miss my family back home that long. Deus é que sabe (God only knows).’

For wealthy people, there is a far much easier way. Portugal’s ‘golden residence permit’ – visto gold – requires an investment of 500,000 euros in property in exchange for permanent residency and visa-free travel through Europe’s Schengen area.

According to the government two-thirds of the more than 5000 ‘golden visas’ – issued since 2012 – have been to Chinese applicants. In recent years however, the number of Brazilian and  African investors is rising. The program has already generated more than 3 billion euros.

Real estate has long been attractive to criminals due to the potential to launder large quantities of cash. Last week the British newspaper the Guardian, together with the Portuguese weekly Expresso, published in a leaked document a list of corrupt Brazilian business executives and relatives of Angolan politicians – being accused of bribery – who had secretly bought access to Europe via Portugal’s visto gold scheme.

One of them is Otávio Azevedo, former president of Brazil’s second-largest construction company, Andrade Gutierrez. He received an 18-year sentence last year, after admitting a string of corruption offenses. Two years before his arrest he bought a € 1.4 million property in Lisbon and subsequently applied for a golden visa in 2014.

Another is Sergio Lins Andrade, chairman and main shareholder of the same company, who in 2014 acquired a Lisbon property worth € 665,000 through the golden visa program. He is estimated by Forbes to be worth $ 1.5 billion.

Relatives of the Angolan vice president Manuel Vincente – until 2012 chief executive of the country’s state oil company Sonagol – are also mentioned in the document. Vincente faced allegations earlier this year when he tried to bribe a Portuguese magistrate in order to suppress an investigation into corruption at Sonagol.

In a statement, the government said its golden visa scheme ‘strictly follows all legally established security procedures’. The European Commission already announced an investigation into all the golden visa programmes in the EU.

BOM FIM DE SEMANA