Verdonk defends 'prize' of Dutch citizenship
2 September 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Obtaining the Dutch nationality is the "main prize" foreigners hope for when they move to the Netherlands and by giving up their original nationality, an immigrant can prove that they really want to become Dutch, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Thursday.
2 September 2004
AMSTERDAM — Obtaining the Dutch nationality is the "main prize" foreigners hope for when they move to the Netherlands and by giving up their original nationality, an immigrant can prove that they really want to become Dutch, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Thursday.
"By taking on Dutch nationality, you convey that you have a bond to the Dutch society," she said.
The minister was speaking in Parliament during a debate about the Dutch government's integration policy and the latest installment, which will force many immigrants to give up their original nationality if they choose to become naturalised in the Netherlands.
Verdonk said immigrants wanted first to become Dutch nationals, followed by European Union nationals and then world citizens, De Telegraaf newspaper reported.
The Liberal VVD minister was responding to a famous statement by the late Prince Claus, referred to again on Thursday by green-left GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema.
Speaking in 2001, Prince Claus reversed the order of loyalty.
"One question that is very difficult for me to answer and which is repeatedly asked of me; how does it feel to be Dutch. My answer is: I don't know how it is to be Dutch. I have various loyalties and I am a world citizen and European and Dutch," he said.
Verdonk said she did not see how restricting the opportunities of immigrants obtaining dual nationality could impede the integration of foreigners in the Netherlands.
She was responding to concerns raised by Labour PvdA leader Wouter Bos, Democrat D66 leader Boris Dittrich and Halsema, who said the government's legislation will prompt immigrants to decide against becoming a Dutch national in order to keep their original citizenship. They said that would hinder integration.
But Verdonk said she had full faith immigrants will opt to take out Dutch nationality. A special naturalisation ceremony would further stimulate that choice, she said. But the minister could not back up her claims with hard facts.
Bos then reminded the minister that the number of naturalisations in the Netherlands has decreased in recent times, basing his view on figures the immigration minister had provided.
Under the government's plans — agreed by Cabinet ministers on 27 August — foreigners will lose their original nationality if they marry their Dutch partner and opt to take out Dutch nationality.
The legislation will not be backdated and must still be ratified by Parliament. It is expected to come into force sometime next year.
The restrictions will also affect immigrants born in the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles or Aruba. Immigrants who have lived in these regions for at least five years in their childhood will also be required to give up their foreign passport when taking out Dutch citizenship.
At the start of her speech Thursday, Verdonk indicated she had difficulty expressing a positive attitude towards the Islamic faith, pointing out that many innocent people have suffered in the name of Islam.
But she hopes to break the negative climate around Islam by setting up a special Muslim-government contact group (CMO).
She also said the Cabinet did not intend to impose a ban on Islamic veils similar to the French ban on the wearing of religious symbols. But the government is devising ways to intervene when there is an indication of force involved in the wearing of a veil.
Verdonk also said the government did not intend to force already integrated long-term immigrants to do an integration course, but asylum seekers will be offered education in the Dutch language and culture in refugee shelters.
Furthermore, the government is keen to introduce a course for Islamic imams as quickly as possible, but does not intend to tell them how to pursue their religious faith. She also said Muslim groups are increasingly positive about the course, which will teach imams about the Netherlands.
The government's immigration policy was a "hard but clear line" and the government hopes to start next year with an integration campaign involving both immigrants and Dutch natives.
The Netherlands has encountered strong social polarisation problems in recent years and the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition government believes the integration of foreigners and the restriction of immigration will help ease society tension.
These were views expressed before and after the rise and fall of Pim Fortuyn — the anti-immigrant politician shot down in Hilversum in May 2002 — but his then politically-incorrect policies have largely become the present day politically-correct.
The Dutch government is thus moving towards the compulsory integration of new and long-term immigrants and will deport some 26,000 asylum seekers in coming years.
It is also set to become the first country to legislate compulsory pre-arrival integration courses for would-be permanent immigrants wanting to join their Dutch partner in the Netherlands.
EU nationals plus US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese expats joining their Dutch partners in the Netherlands are exempt from the requirement because of various treaties agreed on with the Dutch government.
[Copyright Expatica News + Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch news