22 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — As several dozen people protested outside Parliament against the government's immigration plans, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk told MPs on Monday night she was abandoning plans to introduce an integration "badge".
Instead, the Liberal VVD minister said she will introduce a theoretical "integration ladder" designed to judge the level of integration an immigrant has achieved, news agency ANP reported.
Immigrants will thus earn points based if they have an adequate knowledge of Dutch, are employed and if their children attend racially mixed schools. Unemployment, residence in an immigrant suburb and truancy will result in the loss of points, RTL News reported.
Verdonk's previous proposal to award an integration badge or sticker had sparked sharp criticism from former VVD leader Hans Dijkstal, who described the plan as frightening. He said it was starting to suspiciously look like the Star of David that the Nazis forced Jews to wear in World War II.
The statement sparked uproar because Dijkstal is a member of the PaVEM Commission, which stimulates the participation of immigrant women in Dutch society. Verdonk is responsible for the commission, of which Princess Maxima – the Argentine wife of Crown Prince Willem-Alexander - is also a member.
But Minister Verdonk said after Monday's parliamentary debate that the conflict with Dijkstal had not influenced her decision to abandon the integration badge.
She also said the integration ladder is much more objective because it is based on hard facts, while the badge method is determined by impressions and estimates by an integration panel.
Verdonk wants to assess the level of integration an immigrant has achieved to determine who should meet certain integration demands put forward by the Dutch government.
The Cabinet wants to make it compulsory for all new permanent immigrants and those who arrived in the country before 1998 to integrate. They will be required to pass an integration exam and if they fail to do so within five years, they may be fined or deprived of a permanent residence permit.
But to the surprise of MPs, the minister placed part of her integration plans up for review, proposing to allow immigrants call in the assistance of their neighbours to build up knowledge of the Dutch language and culture.
Initially, the minister only wanted certified institutes to offer courses to guarantee quality. But Verdonk now believes certifying the providers will lead to more bureaucracy, higher costs and hinder the entry of new providers. Municipalities presently must supply courses via Regional Training Centres (ROC).
Political parties fired question after question at Verdonk, complaining that the legislative proposals are too vague.
MPs wanted to know what age limit the government intends to impose on those who will need to complete an integration exam. Minister Verdonk has already indicated though that she will accept advice from a commission advising against compulsory integration for elderly immigrants.
The commission said last week that immigrants older than 50 who have been in the Netherlands for many years and are on social security benefits but are not obliged to seek work should be exempted from having to sit an integration exam.
Disgruntled MPs also demanded answers on how much an immigrant can be fined if he or she fails their integration exam and what the course costs will be.
Meanwhile, Turkish and Moroccan protestors — supported by Dutch language (NT2) teachers — gathered around the Lower House of Parliament, Tweede Kamer, to voice their objections on Monday to the government's integration plans.
The Dutch union for the elderly, Nisbo, believes that the plans degrade elderly immigrants to the level on unwilling and poorly integrated Dutch people who need to be forced to integrate.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news
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