This week the Dutch Parliament voted a bill which obliges immigrants to pass a compulsory exam. The Dutch Parliament is also in favour of a proposal to have troublesome youths disciplined and drilled by the army.
From 1 March onwards people who want to settle in the Netherlands (e.g. to join family members or to marry someone living there) will have to pass a preliminary test at the Dutch embassy in their country of origin. In this so-called “integration test” the immigrants have to prove that they have sufficient knowledge of the Dutch language and the geography, history and political system of the Netherlands. The fee for taking the test is 350 euros. Those who do not pass are not allowed to enter the Netherlands. Those who do pass have only taken the first hurdle. After their arrival in the Netherlands they will have to pass a second – more difficult – exam.
The exams are part of a bill proposed by Rita Verdonk, the Minister for lntegration. The Dutch House of Representatives approved the bill on Thursday. The Dutch Senate had done so last month. The Netherlands is the first country to subject immigrants to exams. Last year the Danish government, too, announced plans to significantly curb the flow of immigrants from third-world countries.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende’s government of Christian-Democrats and free-market Liberals is also considering other measures. One of these might be to establish military camps to discipline troublesome youths. There are 40,000 jobless youths in the Netherlands, who have left school without degrees. The majority of them is of foreign origin. Many become involved in criminal activities. A majority of Dutch parliamentarians, including members of the Socialist opposition, supports a plan to discipline them in military style.
Fearing the occurrence of “French situations” such as the widespread rioting by immigrant youths in France in November last year, politicians from the Right and the Left have embraced the proposal to send young people to a military drill camp. The proposal was made this week by the former entrepreneur Hans de Boer, who was recently appointed by the government to head the Taskforce for Youth Unemployment. De Boer said in Thursday’s papers that young dropouts, who have no jobs or qualifications, have to be sent to “prep camps” in order to be drilled and prepared to go back to school. He called upon the army to encourage decent and responsible behaviour in the youths. One of the sites for such training is a former army barracks in Budel, near the Belgian border.
De Boer wants the “prep camps” to be able to train 4,000 youths per year, so that they learn “to get out of their beds and clean their shoes.” During last year’s riots French President Chirac announced the establishment of a “voluntary civil service” where 50,000 immigrant youths could be trained by the army and the police. The Dutch proposal would, however, make such service compulsory rather than voluntary.
On Tuesday Job Cohen, the mayor of Amsterdam, called for action to deal with “French situations” in his city. “There is unrest in the city,” the mayor said after talks with local authorities. The meeting was organised in the wake of several incidents involving mainly Moroccan youths which have occurred since the beginning of this year. “There is an underlying feeling whereby it would only take minor incidents to cause an outburst,” Cohen said. Cars have been vandalized, residents have been threatened, Jews and homosexuals harassed, and a police station attacked after a 17-year-old scooter rider, fleeing the police, died in a crash on 10 January.