Minister calls for compulsory integration
24 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is proposing that all immigrants, both long-term Dutch immigrant residents and newly-arrived foreigners, should be required to successfully complete an integration exam.
The proposal also applies to non-EU expats who enter the Netherlands for work and have been in the country for more than three years.
Some other countries, including the US, have signed agreements with the Netherlands to exclude their citizens from the requirement to complete an integration course in their home country before travelling to the Netherlands. Expats from other countries may be forced to take an course in their own country before they can obtain a residence permit.
According to the confidential plan that will soon be presented to the Cabinet, Antillean and Aruban nationals who wish to enter the Netherlands for the first time will also be required to pass an exam.
The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Minister Verdonk’s plans represent a strengthening of an earlier policy under which migrants were only obligated to participate in an integration course. But should the latest plan get the go ahead, immigrants will also in future be required to pass an exam.
The proposal goes further than the plan agreed to in the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition government accord, newspaper Trouw reported on Tuesday.
The coalition partners agreed last year that especially migrants who possess an inadequate understanding of the Dutch language and are dependant on welfare should be forced to complete an integration exam.
But the plan from VVD minister Verdonk means that all migrants could soon be forced to complete an integration exam, except for those who have diplomas proving they are already integrated.
It is also new that Antillean and Aruban nationals could be required to pass an integration course, despite the fact they have a Dutch passport.
Verdonk believes that in offering integration courses to immigrants, municipal councils must give priority to unemployed migrants on social security benefits and socio-economically disadvantaged female migrants (Moroccan and Turkish).
To stimulate the “invisible” group of migrant women to actually engage in an integration course, the minister believes that municipal councils must bear the brunt of the costs.
She is proposing to test immigrants twice, with the first test demanding that they demonstrate basic knowledge of the Dutch language and culture. These exams will be completed in a person’s land of origin.
An immigrant will receive a permanent residence permit if they complete the follow-up course. Immigrants will be required to personally pay for the course and will thus be free to decide where they will study.
If immigrants complete the course within three years they will be refunded part of the course costs, but municipalities can fine them if they have not completed a course within five years of arriving in the Netherlands.
Expats are not excluded from the proposal either. If it becomes law, non-European expats who enter the Netherlands for work and have been in the country longer than three years will also be required to complete an integration course.
Minister’s Verdonk’s proposals come after the Cabinet resolved on 6 February that non-EU marriage and family unification migrants will be forced to complete an integration course in their land of origin before being allowed to enter the Netherlands.
The measure is mainly aimed at Turkish and Moroccan nationals and MPs in the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, must first approve of the plan.
But a spokeswoman with the Justice Ministry — which houses the immigration service IND — said the regulation did not apply to short-stay arrivals, such as expats and academics or students. EU nationals do not need to complete an integration course either.
Furthermore, some non-EU nations have signed treaties with the Netherlands excluding their citizens from being forced to take the courses in their country of origin before moving to the Netherlands. These countries are the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
The Netherlands is in the grips of an intensifying crackdown against immigration and the task of integrating immigrants into Dutch society.
Tougher laws have greatly reduced the number of asylum seeker applicants in recent years and the Parliament approved earlier this month a new amnesty and deportation plan that will give about 2,300 long-term asylum seekers a residence permit, but deport 26,000 others.
With a highly visible ethnic community in a population of 16 million, Dutch politicians have long sought a way to stimulate integration and reduce immigration.
The general mood hit fever pitch when anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn shocked the nation prior to the May 2002 election when he stated publicly that the Netherlands was full.
Despite immediate condemnation of his statement and his assassination at the hands of an animal rights activist in May 2002, his message lifted the taboo on anti-immigration statements and policies.
The anti-immigration feeling has subsequently taken deeper root in Dutch political thinking and with Minister Verdonk’s Liberal VVD unveiling a radical get-tough policy over the weekend, the end to the immigration crackdown is not yet in sight.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news