Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas said that, with the amendment in place, specialists of the Migration Department were instructed to urgently send letters to all Litvaks whose asylum applications had been rejected with notification of the new law and urge them to apply again.
“As far as I know, the interest is indeed huge. For instance, a large number of people have turned to the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel. I hope that every application will be examined again, with a positive decision made wherever possible,” the minister told the daily.
According to Lietuvos Žinios, after the amendment took effect on July 6, the Migration Department said it had received 55 repeated applications in the category for return of the Lithuanian citizenship.
Since November of 2015, Jews of Lithuanian descent and their descendants living in Israel and the Republic of South Africa have had their applications for Lithuanian citizenship rejected due to changes in judicial practices.
In the negative findings, migration specialists referred to the judicial practice that citizenship can only be restored to those persons who left Lithuania before it regained independence in 1990 due to political reasons, resistance to the occupational regime or persecution. Lithuanian officials maintain that Jews were not subjected to persecution in the interwar period.
Following a wave of discontent, the parliament changed the law in June, envisaging that citizenship rights can be restored for individuals who left, not fled the country. Authors said that changes should allow Jews who left Lithuania in the interwar period and their descendants to apply for restoration of their citizenship.
The Nazis, often assisted by their Lithuanian collaborators, massacred about 90 percent 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.
Lithuania’s current Jewish population consists of about 3,000 individuals.