The Times March 24, 2006 www.timesonline.co.uk
The proposed exam, to be designed by a group of experts, is based on schemes being introduced in some European countries, but could eventually be extended to all 25 EU members.
It is the latest step in the development of a common immigration policy in Europe, part of which aims to ensure that immigrants accept Western values and become integrated into the host society. The issue has gained approval after a series of terrorist attacks, amid fears that Islamic extremism is gaining a foothold in some Muslim communities.
The exam would be part of a new integration contract that the ministers from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland proposed at a two-day meeting in northern Germany.
In addition to making sure that new arrivals are aware of the rights and obligations that come with moving to a new country, the contract would test their knowledge of Western values, and of the host country’s language and main institutions. It would also determine whether they had sufficient means of finance to support themselves.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said: “What we agreed very strongly was that the values of our societies — democracy, respect for other faiths, free speech, the rule of law, free media and so on — are values which we would expect everybody wanting to settle in these countries to respect.”
Asked if immigrants who broke the contract could be deported, Mr Clarke replied: “That would be an issue that could arise.”
The meeting agreed that a working group would now flesh out the elements of the potential integration contract that was first raised by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Interior Minister. It is expected to draw heavily on France’s own experience: it has operated a national welcome and integration contract since 2004 after running pilot projects the previous year.
The Home Office has already introduced contracts involving exams and ceremonies for people seeking full British citizenship. A spokesman said that although there were no immediate plans to change those arrangements, the Government was examining the possibility of introducing English language tests for any immigrant wanting permanent residence in Britain without taking out citizenship.
Several European countries have introduced tests for immigrants. After the 9/11 attacks, followed by those in Madrid and London and the murder of the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, there has been growing alarm at the growth of parallel communities that feel alienated from the West.
This month the Netherlands began applying some of the world’s toughest entry laws, requiring potential immigrants to take language and culture exams and study up to 375 hours in their home country before emigrating.
To prepare them for Dutch liberal values, they will also have to watch a film with scenes of a topless woman and featuring gay men kissing.
HOLLAND TESTS IMMIGRANTS WITH A GAY KISS
By: Bruce Mutsvairo, The Associated Press
The reactions of applicants will be examined to see whether they are able to accept the country's liberal attitudes.
From Wednesday, the DVD -- which also shows the often crime-ridden ghettos where poorer immigrants might end up living -- will form part of an entrance test, in Dutch, covering the language and culture of Holland.
Those sitting the test will be expected to know which country Crown Princess Maxima comes from (Argentina) and whether hitting women and female circumcision are permitted.
Muslim leaders in Holland say the film is offensive.
"It really is a provocation aimed to limit immigration. It has nothing to do with the rights of homosexuals. Even Dutch people don't want to see that," said Abdou Menebhi, the Moroccan-born director of Emcemo, an organisation that helps immigrants to settle.
"They are trying to find every pretext to show that people should not come to The Netherlands because they are fundamentalist or not emancipated," he said. "They confront people with these things and then judge them afterwards."
Famile Arslan, 34, an immigration lawyer of Turkish origin, agreed. "I have lived here for 30 years and have never been witness to two men kissing in the park. So why are they confronting people with that?" she said.
She accused the Government of preaching tolerance about civil rights while targeting non-Westerners with harsh and discriminatory immigration curbs.
The new test -- the first of its kind in the world -- marks another step in the transformation of Holland from one of Europe's most liberal countries to the one cracking down hardest on immigration.
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, known as Iron Rita, has introduced compulsory integration classes, higher age limits for marriage to people from abroad and the removal of residency permits if immigrants commit petty crimes.
She has also talked of banning the burka.
The measures were prompted in part by outrage over the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who had made a film about the oppression of women in Muslim communities.
Applicants will sit the exam at one of 138 embassies around the world. They will answer 15 minutes of questions and those who pass the first stage will have to complete two "citizenship" tests over five years and swear a pledge of allegiance to Holland and its constitution.
The Centre-Right Government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende believes the tests will provide an objective way of assessing the suitability of applicants by gauging how well prepared they are to make the transition to Dutch life and their willingness to integrate.
Dirk Nieuwboer, a Dutch journalist based in Istanbul, said the multiple-choice cultural test included a question about how to behave in a cafe if two men at the next table started kissing.
"There was another question about which former Dutch colony a particular spice came from," said Nieuwboer.
"Most Dutch people don't know these things."
The Sunday Times March 13, 2006 www.theaustralian.news.com.au
The Dutch have set a tough new test for would-be immigrants.
A new film tests applicants' readiness to participate in the liberal Dutch culture, as the camera focuses on two gay men kissing in a park, before a topless woman emerges from the sea and walks on to a crowded beach. If they can't stomach it, no need to apply
Whether or not they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass The Netherlands' new entrance examination.
The test - the first of its kind in the world - has been made compulsory and is available at 138 Dutch embassies around the world. Taking the exam costs £240.
"Immigrants wishing to settle in The Netherlands for, in particular, the purposes of marrying or forming a relationship will be required to take the civic integration examination abroad," the immigration ministry said in a statement.
The test is part of a broader crackdown on immigration that has been gathering momentum in The Netherlands since 2001.
Not everyone is happy with the new test. Dutch theologian Karel Steenbrink criticised the 105-minute movie, saying it would be offensive to some Muslims.
There are some major exemptions. EU nationals, asylum-seekers and skilled workers who earn more than £31,000 per year will not be required to take the 30-minute computerised exam.
Also, citizens of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Switzerland are exempt.
Mohammed Sini, the chairman of Islam and Citizenship, a national Muslim organisation, defended the film, saying that homosexuality is "a reality". Sini urged all immigrants "to embrace modernity".
© Copyright Press Association March 15, 2006
A testing time for immigrants
A new entrance test for would-be immigrants to the Netherlands has been condemned by some as Islamophobic and detrimental to the country's economy.
The "civic integration" test, part of a broader government policy shift on
immigration, came into effect in February.
It includes the compulsory viewing of a film which includes scenes of gay men kissing and topless women.
Critics say the film, which forms part of a study pack for would-be immigrants, is designed to discourage applicants from Muslim countries who may be offended by its content.
Arzu Merali, spokeswoman for the London-based
Islamic Human Rights Commission,
says the test indicates that Muslims are not welcome. People seeking entrance
from other EU countries, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan do not
have to take it.
"Sadly the Dutch authorities are now openly exhibiting the type of Islamophobia that sends a very clear message to wider society," Merali said. She said the message is that new Muslim immigrants are unwelcome, as are those already present who do not conform to a uniform idea of a Dutch citizen.
But Maud Bredero, spokeswoman for the Dutch ministry of
justice for integration policy, denied that was the case. "Everyone is
welcome," she said.
According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 54% of all non-Western foreigners living in the Netherlands are Muslim, 95% of them originating from Turkey, Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister, said the latest initiative is aimed at instilling Dutch values.
"It is important that you not be afraid to make clear demands of people - that they subscribe to our European values, that they respect our laws and learn the language," she said.
After viewing the 105-minute film, which is available in most
languages, applicants are required to take an exam - costing $417 - on facts
about the country such as its provincial structure, Queen Beatrix's monarchical
functions and the role of William of Orange in Dutch history.
Applicants need a basic command of the Dutch language and will be tested on their knowledge of Dutch culture.
"Verdonk does not see migrants as
people enriching our culture and country... That is why she ordered this
Karel Steenbrink, a theologian based at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, describes the immigration minister's move as "strange".
"Verdonk does not see immigrants as people enriching our culture and country ... That is why she ordered this film," he said.
The professor questioned the inclusion of some of the more graphic images in a general film on the Netherlands.
"You can only see it [topless women] a few weeks a year in the Netherlands because it is so cold here," he said, "and then only in restricted places. You seldom see it.
"Verdonk knows the reaction to the film would be one of fear,
anger ... she works like that."
Verdonk has also said that the Netherlands may introduce penalties for long-term residents or citizens who fail language or culture classes.
Applicants are quizzed on Queen
Steenbrink said: "The whole package - the film, Dutch language courses, higher cost of a visa, et cetera - has already reduced the number of immigrants. Even asylum-seekers are affected."
Immigrant numbers fell by 25% last year, Steenbrink said, quoting figures released by the statistics bureau.
The Netherlands can ill-afford this situation, he said, because the percentage of people over the age of 75 is increasing.
"How are we to keep the country running if there is no
immigration? Dutch society, in the short and long term, could have quite a lot
of problems. Therefore, I personally think we will need, in the future, more and
"Signs such as this video, saying we do not like to have people coming in, unless they are 100% adjusted to our society, sends the wrong message."
"We do not want to
reduce the amount of newcomers, but we do encourage them to learn about our
country and language in order to get better positions in this society"
Bredero, the Dutch ministry spokeswoman, disagrees.
"We do not want to reduce the amount of newcomers, but we do encourage them to learn about our country and language in order to get better positions in this society," she said.
She said immigrants are still disadvantaged in the Netherlands.
"Many are unemployed, [live in] poor housing and not able to guide their children at school. There are also many people isolated because of the language problems. Next to this, the Dutch government would like immigrants to know more about our country [historically, socially and politically] before arriving."
However, EMCEMO, an organisation in the Netherlands that helps settle immigrants, questions whether the measures are educational. It says the test is designed to provoke and has only one goal: to stop the flow of immigrants, especially by Muslims from countries such as Morocco and Turkey.
Social and religious tensions in the Netherlands have increased recently.
The situation was aggravated by the killing of Theo van Gogh, the film
director, by a Dutch-Moroccan man in 2004, after van Gogh made a film accusing
Islam of condoning violence against women.
The government is also studying whether it can implement a ban on the burqa - a covering worn by some Muslim women that covers the head and face - which was approved by parliament in December.
09 February 2006
Rotterdam, the country's second-biggest city, last month passed a code that encourages residents to speak only Dutch in schools, at work and on the street as the city struggles to assimilate Turkish and Moroccan immigrants. Now Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is calling for a similar national measure. Neither move includes penalties for violators.
"I'm for such a code for all Dutch people,'' Verdonk said in a Jan. 31 column in the Amsterdam-based newspaper Trouw. ``In such a code, you tell people what's expected of them and hope that they will live by it.''
The proposal is the latest reaction to rising tensions between immigrants, who make up 10 percent of the population, and native Dutch.
A language code may harm the Netherlands' reputation for tolerance and multiculturalism, according to Rotterdam's Labor Party. Dutch people speak an average of 1.59 languages other than their mother tongue, the second-highest figure in the 25 European Union nations, behind Luxembourg, according to a 2002 survey by the EU. About 75 percent of the Dutch speak English, 67 percent German and 12 percent French.
Since 1602, when the Dutch East India Co. was created to import spices from Southeast Asia, the Dutch economy has been built on international trade. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's second-biggest oil company, is based in The Hague. Unilever, the world's third-largest foodmaker, is based in Rotterdam.
City officials in Amsterdam, the Netherlands' largest city, and The Hague, the third-biggest, say they have no plans to introduce such language codes in their communities.
Heated debate over ‘Dutch only’ language plans
Published: Wednesday, 25 January, 2006, 09:56 AM Doha Time www.gulf-times.com
THE HAGUE: Dutch Immigration Minister
Rita Verdonk has sparked a new controversy in the national debate about
integration of immigrants after saying this weekend that only Dutch should be
spoken on the streets here.
“Speaking Dutch in the street is very important. I receive more and more e-mails from people saying they feel unheimisch (ill at ease) in the street,” Verdonk said at a weekend congress of her liberal VVD party about integration. The minister’s comment seemed to contradict her own Dutch-only call, since she resorted to using the German word “unheimisch”, which translates loosely into “ill at ease” but has no direct translation in Dutch.
“I want to set up a code of conduct about what we as Dutch people feel is important if you live here,” she added.
The minister, whose plans for obligatory tests of Dutch language and culture paid for by prospective immigrants recently got the green light from the parliament, now wants to set up a code of conduct that will forbid the use of a foreign language in the streets of the Netherlands.
According to the popular De Telegraaf daily a majority of parliament, consisting of the ruling CDA Christian Democrats, VVD and the opposition right-wing fringe party LPF, supports Verdonk’s plans but says it should be up to municipalities to decide if they want to put into place the code of conduct.
Dutch port city Rotterdam recently presented such a code of conduct for its inhabitants. Rotterdam, where half of the population is of immigrant descent, adopted a code of conduct with seven points set up to regulate contact between its inhabitants.
The Rotterdam code states that Dutch should be the official language used “in school, at work, in the street and in community centres”.
“An informal code will not change people’s behaviour,” progressive Christian daily Trouw writes yesterday, recalling that the Rotterdam code says people “should do” something, but does not require the “must do” it.
In the Hague, where the municipality is fighting to keep the siege of several international institutions currently based there, the authorities are none too taken with the idea, according to Pieter van Woensel, the VVD’s local alderman for international affairs.
“I think it is not very likely that it will be a success,” he told the NRC-Handelsblad paper.
Confronted with the media controversy about her plans, Verdonk on Monday told Dutch public radio that people would not be forbidden from using their native language if it is not Dutch.
“There will not by a law or some sort of language police,” she said. “What is important is that foreigners who want to permanently reside in the Netherlands use Dutch as the language of communication.”
Last week the Dutch, the Dutch parliament approved plans to have prospective immigrants take obligatory Dutch culture and language tests, for 350 euros ($430) a pop. But the government is not making any preparatory courses available beyond a film presenting the Netherlands and providing examples of the tests.
Recently Dutch public television broadcast a programme in which various groups residing in the Netherlands sat the tests - among them native-born Dutch nationals, Chinese restaurant owners and so on.
They all failed. – AFP
Code of conduct to enhance the Dutch identity
24 January 2006
AMSTERDAM — "Oh no. Minister Verdonk doesn't allow me to speak English in public anymore," MP Bert Bakker joked during a parliamentary debate in The Hague on Monday afternoon.
Bakker, a member of the junior government party D66, promised to adhere to the language initiative Verdonk wants to include in a code of conduct to enhance the Dutch identity. But in response to a question from a colleague, Bakker said: "That goes without saying."
Parliamentarians were discussing the new well-being legislation (WMO) on Monday but references to the 'Verdonk code' made repeated appearances.
Moroccan-born MP Naïma Azough of the green-left Groenlinks talked about the "extreme make over" being planned by the health ministry to the law that deals with the welfare of senior citizens, people with disabilities and the chronically ill.
MP Margot Kraneveldt of the populist LPF party asked about the "bling, bling" of the new law. Bakker categorised the legal changes as "pimp my law".
Other parliamentarians also got into the spirit, with references to "go, no go" (the point at which a final decision would be taken on whether to implement the changes) and "comply or explain".
Though whimsical, the behaviour during the debate illustrates the political opposition Verdonk faces in trying to compel everyone to speak Dutch in public.
Verdonk, a member of the Liberal Party (VVD), outlined her idea for a code of conduct to strengthen the Dutch national identity at a conference of the VVD's youth wing at the weekend. The young Liberals rejected her proposal immediately.
She told journalists afterwards she believes allochtonen (non-native Dutch residents) have a need for rules that illustrate what is expected of them.
Copying the Rotterdam Code, which was unveiled by political leaders in the port city on Friday, Verdonk said her national code would emphasise the need for everyone to embrace non-discrimination and equality between men and women.
Verdonk said she often heard autochtone (native Dutch people) say 'you have settled in the Netherlands and therefore you have to speak Dutch. Full stop.' The minister claimed this definition was "also liberal" because her party wanted to ensure people "felt safe".
Some of her party colleagues don't agree. Pieter van Woensel, the VVD's Alderman for International Affairs in The Hague, characterised the obligation to speak Dutch in the street as "not very likely" to succeed.
Laetitia Griffith, a VVD member of the Amsterdam's executive council, also dismissed the idea. She said people must have the right to speak the language of their choice in public – as long as it did not cause a nuisance.
Verdonk later said in a radio interview that she was not proposing a ban on other languages, merely a recommendation for people who settle in the Netherlands to use the local language.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
ONLINE - February 2, 2006, 01:37 PM
Interview with Leon de Winter
"The Dutch Are not Afraid of Islam"
From French riots last autumn to language requirements at German schools, integration is at the top of the European agenda at the moment. Holland too has problems. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with best-selling Dutch author Leon de Winter about minority problems there.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. de Winter, Dutch Integration Minister Rita Verdonk made headlines here in Germany recently with her demand that only Dutch should be spoken in public in the Netherlands. Has "let's do away with foreign languages" become the new motto of a country that for years has served as the model of tolerance?
De Winter: Ms. Verdonk was falsely quoted. You can't force people to speak Dutch. How would you be able to control it? What she did say is that it is important that all people speak Dutch. There are too many foreigners here who can't speak our language.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that one of the reasons that the unemployment rate is so high among immigrant youth?
De Winter: Yes, 40 percent have no job. But you also have to know that 40 percent of the Moroccan women living in our country are illiterate. How are they supposed to be in any position to provide their children with a decent education or to explain to them how an extremely tolerant society like the Netherlands functions? All of these problems start in the living room.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that why the percentage of ethnic minority youth who finish school is so low?
De Winter: Too many people drop out before graduating from high school. Many want to begin their vocational training after finishing primary school -- but that's too early. At that point, they don't have the same basis as the country's other youth.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are people failing to integrate because they aren't put in a position where they are required to speak Dutch?
De Winter: That is exactly what we are discussing in Holland right now: Why does the country offer official forms in Turkish and Arabic? Why don't we force people to learn Dutch?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Now politicians are practically tripping over each other in their efforts to make policy proposal that would force integration: reeducation camps for unemployed youth or language tests for people who want to immigrate to Holland. Can those lead to success?
De Winter: Those are all pretty hopeless proposals for saving a generation that has already been lost. The parents of these children were never obligated to take charge of their own destiny. The state allowed them to live here and it paid their rent.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the mistakes were made much earlier?
De Winter: Yes, the problems began when the first guest workers arrived in Holland -- as soon as we let people from the third world come here to work in our rich country, we had a guilt complex and somehow saw them as sacred victims. We then let them bring their wives and children over without having any clue that we were importing integration problems with which we had no experience.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So are you saying that the Netherlands, famous for its tolerance, is not a melting pot for immigrants?
De Winter: No, that's the United States. A social welfare state like the Netherlands can never be a country of integration. Only a country like the US, with its weak social net, can integrate large groups of immigrants without problems. Immigrants there are forced to take two or three badly paid jobs just to survive. That would be incompatible with European moral values. But after one or two generations in the US, these people are integrated in society.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen recently warned of the danger that unemployed immigrant youth in the city could riot as they did in Paris. Is Amsterdam a powder keg?
De Winter: I was shocked that a politician like he, who is generally cautious in his statements, would say something like that. It's an indication that the situation is much more serious than we previously assumed. But even (in Amsterdam) you have the same causes: a lack of education and training and a lack of discipline. These youth are no longer getting any guidance and they have no idea who they are supposed to behave in society.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In that context, what roll does Islam play in the Netherlands?
De Winter: The mantel of Islam is often used describe the disquiet and frustration these young man have. Much of it is a normal part of development -- hormones and puberty play a natural role. That has nothing to do with religiosity. I wouldn't say that the Netherlands has suddenly become Islamophobic. These problems also exist in other countries. The Dutch aren't afraid of Islam. We just have too little work for them and that's why many are leaving.
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