The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) on Thursday passed amendments to the Law on Citizenship, which will enable Litvaks, i.e. Jews of Lithuanian origin, and their descendants who left the country in the interwar period, to restore their citizenship rights.

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© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

The amendments will come into effect once signed into law by President Dalia Grybauskaitė. The amendments were submitted to the parliament earlier this week and were debated and passed quickly.

Andrius Kubilius, the leader of the Conservative opposition and one of the authors of the amendments, said that the existing legislation had to be adjusted due to the practice adopted by migration officials and courts, which started asking Litvaks to submit evidence that they, or their ancestors, had been persecuted in interwar Lithuania. Now the scope of the law includes both fleeing and emigration.

The Law on Citizenship in its current version allows persons who left Lithuania before Mar. 11, 1990 to have dual citizenship. However, the Migration Department and Lithuanian courts have lately been rejecting applications for the restoration of citizenship to persons and the descendants of persons who left Lithuania between 1918 and 1940.

In rejecting their citizenship applications, migration specialists refer to case law that says that citizenship can be restored only to persons who left Lithuania before the restoration of independence in 1990 because of political reasons, resistance to occupation regimes or persecution by the regime. They say that Jews were not persecuted in the independent Lithuania of the interwar years.

According to data from the Migration Department, ten Litvaks were refused citizenship in 2014 and 76 in 2015. Ninety-seven received negative decisions in the first quarter of this year.

The Nazis, often assisted by their Lithuanian collaborators, massacred about 90% of the Lithuanian pre-war Jewish population of around 208,000 during World War II.

The Israel-based Yad Vashem center of Holocaust studies has recognized more than 800 Lithuanians as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to rescue Jews from the genocide.

BNS
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