Expatica.com, 23 Feb.
AMSTERDAM - In a growing backlash against immigration, the Liberal VVD party in the Netherlands has unveiled a get-tough policy that seeks to restrict family unification migration and extend the amount of time before immigrants can claim social security benefits.
The government coalition party hopes its new plan will stimulate the integration of non-western immigrants into Dutch society, news agency ANP reported.
It entails uncoupling residence permits from the right to social security, meaning that immigrants may only obtain government benefits 10 years after they arrive in the country. A Dutch national will thus be financially responsible for their foreign partner for the first decade.
Outlining his party’s tough stance, VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen also said in the current affairs television show Buitenhof on Sunday that marriage migration posed a “gigantic problem” to the successful integration of immigrants in the Netherlands.
He said about 80 percent of Turkish and Moroccans obtain a partner from Turkey or Morocco and that the VVD, in particular, wished to put the brakes on immigration. It plans to only give family unification immigrants an independent residence permit after 10 years.
In cases of marriage or family unification migration, the Dutch resident must also have adequate accommodation to house his or her partner and family.
The VVD proposals have been greeted with dismay in expat circles, including on Expatica’s Discussion Forums.
Noting that the VVD proposals would drastically extend the current three-year waiting period before a non-Dutch partner could apply for a residence permit in his or her own right, one expat wrote in the forum: “The biggest problem with this I find is that it means that for an additional seven years, bi-national couples would be subjected to constant harassment by Dutch politicians wishing to score easy points with xenophobic voters.”
Another expat warned: “They keep talking about non-Western immigrants, but two to one says that the Christian Democratic CDA [of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende] will try to broaden it to include all immigrants.”
A third expat wrote: “I conclude that the VDD’s intention is just to oppress this group of people-people who ‘import’ their spouses, and especially the ‘imported’ spouses themselves.
“Perhaps it’s because they are perceived as the weaker members of the society and since they can’t fight back they don’t have to give much thought about bullying them.
“Would all these measures actually put a halt on spouse importation by ‘target groups’? All they could achieve is making sure that the imports get a hard time after they arrive; a self-fulfilling prophesy of ‘they are achterlijk, or backward, anyway’.”
Murdered anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn once referred to Islam as a “backward” religion.
Van Aartsen also urged for the creation of national self-awareness, saying that success can only be measured if someone can say that they feel Dutch. The VVD said further that it was neither in favour of “16 million cheese heads” nor 173 sub-groups in national dress.
In government with the Christian Democrat CDA and Democrat D66, the VVD has also proposed abolishing subsidies for organisations that only represent one or several ethnic groups. Moreover, the government should only publish information brochures in Dutch, it said.
It also intends to abolish the right for third generation immigrants to hold dual nationality and restrict the exceptions to the ban on dual nationality.
A “family coach” should be appointed to problem families with immigrant children who fall behind in school and it should also become compulsory for parents to attend parent-teacher nights at school.
“In the long run, no one may leave education without a diploma,” the VVD said.
Van Artsen said in some cases it is better if immigrant parents be refused the right to select a school of their children. He said Muslim imams often place too much pressure on families to choose an Islamic school and the choice could be better made by a family coach.
Besides obligating immigrants to do more, the VVD plan also asserts that the government must also take decisive action. The party said municipal councils should renovate problem suburbs and offer a greater variety of housing.
To prevent the formation of “ghettos”, incoming migrants may only choose where they want to live five years after they entered the country. A crackdown will also be launched against landlords who illegally rent out homes to more than one person.
The VVD plan - which has been submitted to the lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer - hails back to 1991 and the integration policy of former leader Frits Bolkestein, who is currently the EU Internal Market Commissioner.
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.
The VVD plan is thus part of an ongoing crackdown against immigration, which culminated recently in restrictive asylum seeker measures, such as the government’s amnesty and deportation plan.
Under the amnesty scheme, about 2,300 long-term asylum seekers will be given a residence permit and about 26,000 others will be deported. MPs have approved the plan.
The government is also in favour of compulsory integration classes, both for incoming migrants and those who have been in the country for some time but cannot speak adequate Dutch. The classes provide Dutch language and culture classes.
The Cabinet has also resolved to force family unification migrants to complete integration classes in their country of origin. The Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, is yet to vote on the proposal.
The VVD plan’s come in the same month as the Dutch Parliament voted in favour of the government’s policy to deport 26,000 unsuccessful asylum seekers, many of whom who have waited five years or more for a decision on their applications. It is being described as the largest deportation operation in Europe since World War II.
Meanwhile, the British government is considering changing the law so that immigrants will have to wait 12 months before they are entitled to social security there.
London is also planning to introduce a loyalty pledge under which newcomers will have to swear allegiance to the British Monarch and to the United Kingdom, newspaper The Sunday Times said at the weekend.