Friday, August 25, 2006

Forced integration rejected

If Minister Verdonk ( Immigration and Integration ) had her way, by 1 January next year, every allochthone (my definition: any foreigner with different skin colour) would be forced to complete a “basic integration examination”, regardless of how long they have lived in the Netherlands. This would apply to new immigrants as well as old ones who are able to reside in the country. It would also apply to three categories of naturalised immigrants: welfare benefit receivers, parents who care for their children and religious officers.

This “basic integration examination” (basisexamen inburgering) tests the immigrant on their knowledge of Dutch culture, including values of democracy, society and politics, as well as knowledge of the Dutch language, which should proficient enough to listen and understand daily conversations.

Now I do not have a problem if new comers who would like to live in the Netherlands are tested on their knowledge of Dutch culture and language. Anyone who wants to live in another country should make an effort to blend in, not just for his own convenience in everyday life, but is also beneficial to understanding and mingling of different population groups.

What I do have a problem is forcing people who have lived in perhaps for the most of their lives, or were even born here, to undergo demeaning and discriminatory examinations. I’ve seen the kind of questions they ask:

  • Is it permissible to hit a woman?
  • Can homosexuals get married in the Netherlands?
  • Who are these people? (picture of the crown prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima)
  • Does the Netherlands have one or many TV channels?
  • Should you get a job once you’ve arrived in the Netherlands or wait for employment benefit?

Hello?! People are not idiots, and they did not just come to this country and been raised in a savage reserve with no exposure to the values and virtues of the ‘civilised’ world. If even old immigrants and naturalised citizens are to be tested on their knowledge of Dutch history, politics, culture and society, why not test every single citizen of this country? Ask any one randomly on the street to name three ministers of the cabinet, and chances are you’ll get a blank stare. Ask people when the Dutch Republic was founded, and you’d probably have to wait a long time for an answer.

Why single out people who look or appear foreign, because of where they were born or their race, culture and religion? Because this law that Minister Verdonk is proposing is exactly that: it is discriminatory and violates the very first article of the Constitution. The law does not apply to “autochtonous” people (my definition: whites), but strictly to allochthones (my definition: non-whites).

Thank goodness the Supreme Court decided today in an opinion that people who have already received Netherlandership cannot be compelled to complete the ‘integration examinations”. This would be in conflict with the pricniples of equality. Autocthones are eqaul to allochthones the moment that they receive Dutch citizenship. That is the basis of equality, and can go no other way.

Besides, under existing social security and education legislation, the government has not provided adequate means for naturalised citizens to undergo integration examinations. The law would only be applicable to immigrants coming from outside the countries of the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EER) .

This is apparently the second time that the minister has had her proposals to force immigrants to integrate rejected. The minister says she will respect the opinion, and work toward amending the legislative proposal.

(I can’t get my hands on the official opinion, because the confidential news was leaked by a TV channel. Maybe soon)

UPDATE 26 Aug 2006

  • In 2004, Minister Verdonk claimed that people immigrants born outside of the European Union are not equal to those born in the EU: "Unequal groups can be treated unequally." And had she had her way, some 800 000 'old comers' would have been forced to complete integration examinations, or face a hefty fine. The minister's proposal was turned down.

'Michiel Kruijt, 'Inburgeringswet sterk verwaterd' [Integration law strongly watered down], p3, 26 August 2006, De Volkskrant

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