18 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch government was advised on Friday to dilute its integration plans and exempt older immigrants from having to sit an integration exam, which could become compulsory from 2006.
A government commission said immigrants older than 50 who have been in the Netherlands for many years and are on social security benefits but are not obligated to seek work should not be forced to complete an integration exam.
But under leadership of Liberal VVD member Jan Franssen, the commission said every immigrant in the Netherlands aged 16 or more and foreigners who wish to settle permanently in the country should be obligated to pass an integration exam from 2006.
The commission also said however that immigrants who have been in the Netherlands for some time should be given an easier integration test than that which new arrivals would be forced to undertake.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk requested the Franssen Commission at the end of last year to issue advice on the integration exam, news agency ANP reported.
Since 1998, new arrivals have been obligated to integrate into Dutch society, but the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 Cabinet also wants long-term immigrants who settled in the country before that year also to sit an integration exam.
If the immigrants do not pass the exam within a specified period of time, they can be fined. Minister Verdonk hopes the threat will force immigrants to integrate.
The Netherlands has encountered social tension in recent years as immigrant numbers expanded, prompting Pim Fortuyn to claim before his murder in May 2002 that the Netherlands was full. The Dutch government is currently working to reduce the inflow of new arrivals and integrate all immigrants.
Meanwhile, in its advice on Minister Verdonk, the commission said the integration exam should be equivalent to the foreign languages exams in Dutch pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO). This is equal to the level required in naturalisation exams.
The commission said lower educated and non-integrated long-term immigrant residents should be allowed to sit a lower level exam for reading and writing, but pass a VMBO-level exam for speaking and listening, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.
New arrivals should be required to know 2,000 practical Dutch words, allowing for a restricted form of communication, the commission said.
It also said if immigrants have already passed a Dutch state examination or professional or vocational education, they should then gain exemption from having to sit an integration exam.
Minister Verdonk will discuss her integration proposals with MPs next week. About 400,000 immigrants are expected in the coming period to be contacted by their local municipality and told to sit for an integration exam.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news