Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
To the right of the political spectrum, the popular idea is that a Dutch passport is not an automatic right. The liberals in the VVD view it as a ‘first prize’. One that you don’t get just like that. You have to show that you have something to offer, fight your way into the society, and show good will.
In the Netherlands, immigrants can apply for a Dutch passport after five years, but it seems that this rule will be tightened. A bill has been put forward to extend the term of naturalisation from five to seven years. The proposal has already been accepted by the Lower House and is now with the Upper House. Five years is too short to learn the language and to participate in society. If it were left up to the VVD, it would even be ten years.
Maarten Vink, professor of Political Science, cannot bear to think about it. He completely disagrees with the ‘right-wing’ argumentation and turns it around. “A passport is a sign of encouragement for those who want to integrate and participate, because it offers all kinds of rights. Our research, in which we followed newcomers for ten years, showed that immigrants who received a passport after five years had a greater chance at finding a paid job. For men, chances were 24 per cent higher, for women 36 per cent. If they only naturalise after seven years, chances drop to 10 per cent. Employers hesitate to employ non-Dutch citizens. They wonder about work permits, their asylum status, and their command of the language.”
Another not unimportant fact, according to Vink, is that immigrants from non-Western, unstable countries benefit most from a short naturalisation period. “In addition, they then feel more at home in the Netherlands and are more motivated to build a life for themselves here. They finally have security. If you raise the bar to ten years, you are leaving people in suspense for a very long time. This is already happening in Austria. As far as I'm concerned, Canada gives a good example. Upon arrival, people are told that under certain conditions, they can naturalise after four years.”
But do be careful, says Vink: a passport is not a universal remedy for all your problems. There will still be people who can't find a job, or who become victims of discrimination. To find out exactly what the relationship is between naturalisation and integration, Vink has recently received a European subsidy of two million euro. He is going to look closely at eight countries: the Netherlands, Germany, the US, Canada and four Scandinavian countries (http://www.milifestatus.com).
Not only the left-wing parties, but also the Dutch Council of State - which scrutinises all bills - is quite critical of the naturalisation bill, because it lacks in convincing argumentation. Vink agrees: “I think it is symbolic politics, to win right-wing voters.”
The senators have put forward questions to the State Secretary (Klaas Dijkhof, VVD), partly as a result of Vink's research. They are now awaiting an answer.
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