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)

We need the indifferent, the conformed and the sceptics
We need those who recycle excuses and nothing else
We even need those who do not harm
(Lisbon City Council)

Lisbon is Europe’s Green Capital 2020. A recognition of the work the city has been done over the past years towards a greener and more people-friendly city (

Halving of the municipal water use by putting a new drainage plan into place. A 30% reduction in consumption through investment in renewable energy. Nine out of ten municipality vehicles running on electricity. Expansion of the public transport network with cheaper tickets for metro, bus and ferryboat.
Extension of bicycle lanes to a total of 90 km. Selective waste collection up to 38% with 212 underground containers installed. A 250 hectares increase in green zones and 85% of the population living within 300 metres of a green area.

To date, the capital has around 800.000 trees. Lisbon’s biggest – 10 km² sized – Monsanto park, not only generates much-desired shadow but captures CO2 as well. One of the first initiatives of the City Council in January has been the planting of 20.000 extra trees. Another 80.000 will follow later this year.

But are the measures taken enough when science shows that climate emergency is real and that action must be swift and decisive?

Taking into consideration that the transport sector is responsible for 25% of the greenhouse emissions, it is amazing that 70% of the Portuguese still use their private car for urban transport with half of these vehicles running on diesel.
Although the sale of electric cars doubled in 2019, compared to the previous year, there are only 1000 public charging points in the whole country! A number that needs to increase to 20.000 over the next five years.

It is difficult to understand why the city is mobilized to be the Green Capital 2020 when major political decisions point into the opposite direction. Such as the ongoing expansion of Portela airport in the heart of the city, whose noise and emissions are detrimental to health. Or the construction of a brand new cruise terminal responsible for 10% of total national emissions and 3,5 times more sulfur dioxide emissions than all cars in the capital.

If Lisbon wants to be a genuine Green Capital, stronger measures to mitigate the effects of climate change are promptly required.

Aproveite a sua semana              Enjoy the week            (pic Público/Sapo)