It is not clear how the Moroccan citizen slipped through the net, although it appears a ministry of justice ruling allowed him to acquire a Spanish passport because he met the requisites of at least 10 years’ residence and good conduct.
This was in early 2016, and when he was required to swear allegiance to the Constitution, he was unable to do so as he could not understand it.
Had it been a question of a disability, such as blindness or limited vision, or even dyslexia or illiteracy, it would have been possible for the Magna Carta to be read out to him – but the resident in Vera (Almería province) was not affected by these conditions and it was purely his lack of knowledge of the language which prevented his full comprehension.
This was two years after his application, filed with the Civil Registry and approved.
Citizenship requirements, other than good character and residence, require the applicant to show he or she is integrated in Spanish society, and to pass a general knowledge multiple-choice test on issues relating to culture, society and legal aspects, for which a 60% pass mark is necessary, and also a language test – speaking, reading, writing and listening – at A2 level, which is little more than a good GCSE standard.
The Moroccan man’s lawyer appealed the decision and it reached the National Court this week, whose judge upheld the verdict to cancel his Spanish citizenship.
According to the judge, the required tests and interviews following his citizenship application were never carried out, so the Civil Registry did not find out he had no knowledge of the language.
The State Law Service, whose decision the expatriate was appealing, argued that it would be ‘harmful to the public interest’ to allow a person who did not speak the language of the country citizenship of it.
A sufficient level of ‘integration’ to satisfy citizenship requirements could not be possible otherwise – it would be difficult to be ‘integrated’ in Spanish society if the person was unable to speak or understand Spanish and ‘was unfamiliar with society’s form of expression’, making knowledge of Spanish ‘a point of singular relevance’, it said.
This meant the ‘positive attitude in social relations’ in Spain and ‘lack of black marks on his character’ became ‘irrelevant’, since they were not enough in themselves to show ‘integration’.
But the State Law Service conceded that in the case of a citizenship application with very limited formal education, illiteracy or a disability affecting hearing, eyesight, speech, movement or cognitive processing, the level of the Spanish language required would be ‘modified’ for them.