A combination of Donald Trump’s recent demonisation of Latin American immigrants and the current economic turmoil in Venezuela and other parts of the America’s has meant that many more hispanics are now looking to apply for citizenship here in Spain.
One group that has seen a large increase in applications are the Sephardic Jews.
In 1419, Jews were forced to make the choice of either converting to Catholicism or being burnt at the stake. Many were sent into exile as a result. The new law was an attempt to correct what was seen by many as an ‘historical mistake’.
In March 2018, Spain agreed to extend the citizenship law for ‘Sephardic Jews’ to October 2019 thereby allowing easier access into the country to those whose descendants were forced to leave some 500 years ago under the Spanish inquisition.
So far, around 6,500 Sephardic Jews have used the new law to become citizens of Spain without having to give up their other nationalities. This is far fewer than the Spanish government’s original estimate, that around 90,000 would emigrate here when the law was passed in October 2015.
Applicants do not have to be practicing jews, but they will have to prove their Jewish heritage which is vetted by the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities.
Prior to the law being passed, Sephardic Jews had to have lived in Spain for a minimum of two years in order for their citizenship application to be approved. Under the new law, this is no longer the case although applicants will need to pass a Spanish language and culture test and prove that they have some kind of ‘special connection’ to Spain.
The Venezuelan Problem
Spain has also seen a large influx of immigrants from Venezuela, which has experienced crippling economic problems since 2010 and exacerbated more recently by falling oil prices, a commodity that the country is heavily dependent on .
By April 2018, over 208,000 Venezuelans were thought to be living here in Spain, although government figures show that only 40,000 are registered to work with a large majority disappearing into the black economy.
Venezuelans have been the biggest group in terms of asylum requests in Spain over the past few years, but only 15 out of 12,875 applications in 2017 were actually granted.
One of the main issues is that the Spanish government refuses to recognise the Venezuelan immigrants as genuine asylum seekers as they have not been displaced by war, but rather due to an economic crisis.
Many Venezuelans who fled Spain under Franco’s rule, now see a Venezuela under President Maduro and formerly Hugo Chavez as the very same thing. Hyperinflation, poverty, crime, disease and rationing are all being experienced during what is Venezuela's worst economic crisis.
Under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, many Spaniards emigrated to Venezuela to escape the poverty and repression. They are now looking for their Spanish cousins to recognise their plight, return the favour and grant them a new life in a country that not only shares the same language, but also shares their cultural heritage.