Dutch plan citizenship tests

The Dutch government has announced plans to force 755,000 people to take a citizenship exam and language test or risk a fine and possibly lose their right to live in the Netherlands.

    Theo van Gogh's killing has sparked an anti-Muslim backlash

    The plans, outlined in a letter to parliament by Immigration

    Minister Rita Verdonk, come amid a heated debate about how to

    improve the integration of the country's big immigrant

    population following the murder of an outspoken filmmaker.

    Theo van Gogh, who had angered many of the Netherlands'

    one millions Muslims with a film critical of Islam, was

    killed on 2 November.

    A 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan

    has been charged with his murder.

    "The aim of the system is that everybody who wants to live

    for a long time in the Netherlands sufficiently masters the

    Dutch language to be able to participate in society," Verdonk

    said on Tuesday. "They must also know enough about how society works."

    Verdonk said anybody who had less than eight years

    schooling in the Netherlands would have to take the test,

    including Dutch people.

    Discrimination charges

    About 18% of the Dutch population

    of 16 million is of recent foreign descent.

    "The aim of the system is that everybody who wants to live

    for a long time in the Netherlands sufficiently masters the

    Dutch language to be able to participate in society.

    They must also know enough about how society works"


    Rita Verdonk,
    immigration minister

    The minister had originally only wanted to target immigrants

    from outside the European Union but changed the criteria to

    years of schooling to avoid charges of discrimination.

    Those exempt from the test include those with certain

    diplomas, those older than 65 and EU citizens.

    The government

    said it would ask the European Commission whether it could

    oblige Turkish immigrants to take the test.

    She said the individual would bear the cost of taking the

    exam, although people could claim most of it back if they pass

    . The scheme is expected to cost the government about $350

    million a year.

    New arrivals would have up to five years to pass the test or

    risk a fine of 400 euros and possible implications for their

    continued residency in the country.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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