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Politician blasts Dutch record on immigration

14 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — A senior member of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s party has branded the official policy aimed at integrating immigrants into Dutch society a dismal failure.

Through out much of the 1990s, the Dutch approach to multiculturalism was often cited as a very successful model that other countries should adopt.

But Maxime Verhagen, the leader of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Christian Democrat CDA party, has said that the Dutch integration policy had totally failed.

“Anyone who dares to claim the opposite is either naïve or ignorant, or both,” Verhagen told a CDA conference in The Hague on Tuesday evening.

“We can establish that immigrants in the Netherlands top the ‘wrong’ lists – WAO disability benefit, unemployment assistance, domestic violence, criminality statistics, school and learning difficulties,” the hard-talking politician said.

“Moreover the future prospect for integration is not something to be happy about,” he added, “of the third generation of immigrants, no less than 75 percent get a partner from their land of origin, rather than marrying other Dutch people.”

Verhagen was commenting in advance of the publication on Monday 19 January of a major review of Dutch integration attempts over the last 30 years, news agency Novum reported.

The Blok commission has heard evidence from many witnesses, the last of whom, Frits Bolkestein, EU commissioner for internal markets, slammed what he called the political correctness in Dutch politics in the 1990s.

Dutchman Bolkestein was leader of the free market Liberal VVD, which was in government through the 1990s. The VVD was in coalition with the left-leaning Labour PvdA party and the left-liberal D66 party from 1994 to May 2002.

Bokestein was the first senior politician to voice concern about problems with the integration of newcomers, the majority of whom are Muslims from Turkey and Morocco, into Dutch society.

He claims the coalition partners did not want to hear his “warnings” and accused him of trying to appeal to a “negative undercurrent” in society.

His mantle was taken up by populist politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 who struck a nerve with his claim that “the Netherlands was full”.

Fortuyn accused Islam of being backward and demanded a halt to immigration into the Netherlands.

His newly-founded LPF party came from nowhere in the polls until it looked possible that the party would emerge as the biggest from the general election to be held on 15 May 2002. Fortuyn made clear he would, should that be the case, become Prime Minister.

Fortuyn was gunned down by animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf nine days before the poll. A wave of public sympathy helped the LPF to second place on election day, but uncertainty and fear about the populists allowed the CDA to emerge on top.

Since then, attitudes towards immigrants and asylum seekers have hardened further within all majority parties, including the CDA.

Verhagen told his party conference on Tuesday that the minimum age at which a person could bring a foreign marriage partner into the Netherlands should be raised from 21 to 24.

The granting of a residence permit, he said, should be linked to the requirement to complete an integration course, inburgeringscursus, completed in the person’s country of origin. And income level requirements had to be strictly enforced to ensure newcomers did not have to draw on financial supports from the government.

Verhagen also said that holding dual nationality should be banned. This would not only strengthen a newcomer’s ties to the Netherlands, he said, but would also be an important step in the emancipation of immigrant girls and women.

“A person who commits domestic violence should be banned for a period of several years from bringing in a new partner from abroad,” Verhagen said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news