Newcomer test ‘does not breach human rights’
3 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — Forcing non-EU immigrants to do an integration exam as a condition to stay in the Netherlands would not breach the European Convention on Human Rights, a special commission has advised the Dutch government.
The Foreigner Affairs Advisory Commission (ACVZ) said Tuesday that the Netherlands was thus entitled to demand that immigrants sit for an integration exam and that such a requirement could act as a pre-condition for a permanent residence permit.
The Cabinet resolved last month that immigrants wishing to settle permanently in the Netherlands to join their partner or family must participate in a pre-arrival integration course in their country of origin.
Those who fail to do an integration course will be refused entry to the Netherlands. The Cabinet’s legislative proposal is mainly aimed at Moroccan and Turkish nationals who enter the Netherlands for family unification purposes.
EU citizens are excluded from the requirement to take an integration course, as are short-stay expat workers and students. Japanese, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand nationals who wish to join their Dutch partner are also excluded from having to complete an integration course in their home country due to special treaties of exclusion.
The treaties of exclusion reached with Dutch authorities, however, do not apply to integration courses after their arrival in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, in advising Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk that an integration exam in a foreign country does not breach the European human rights convention or EU guidelines for family formation, the ACVZ said failing to successfully pass an exam may not be used as a reason for deportation.
Furthermore, the Netherlands may not force refugees and their family members to do an integration exam in a foreign country because they do not have a place outside of the Netherlands where they can live as a family unit, news agency ANP reported.
The ACVZ agrees with Minister Verdonk’s stance that integration is essential for newcomers to function well in Dutch society, and that a basic knowledge of the Dutch language and culture may be demanded from people who wish to live in the Netherlands.
The demand must be imposed on everyone who is not excluded based on European law, otherwise it would represent a form of discrimination, the ACVZ said.
The ACVZ also said the coalition Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 government must offer more positive motivation for people who successfully pass exams. This could be achieved by offering a reduced course costs to immigrants who complete their courses ahead of schedule.
It also said that those who successfully complete an exam should come into consideration for a permanent residence permit after three years, rather than the five-year wait under the present system.
Minister Verdonk refused to comment on Tuesday about the advice and will receive a report on Wednesday about the proposed content of integration exams.
The Council of State — which advises the government on legislative proposals — must also assess the government plan, after which Verdonk will draw up a formal legislative proposal.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news