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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

In general, the Netherlands lacks legislation that directly discriminates against minorities. Nevertheless, we can talk about legislation that allows indirect discrimination. The law on integration (Dutch: Wet inburgering) obliges most non-Western immigrants to learn Dutch and pass an exam within a few years of their arrival in the Netherlands .After a period of three-and-a-half years (five years for some), they must pass an exam that evaluates various aspects of their integration. An important part of the exam tests knowledge of Dutch society, including the understanding of the Dutch labor market. The obligation to take the test currently applies not only to new immigrants, but also to some who have lived in the Netherlands for five years or longer.

The exam is requirement to receive a temporary long stay residence permit (Dutch: MVV) and is usually taken at a Dutch embassy. Since first appearing in draft form as part of a proposal in the House of Representatives, the inburgering test has been a subject of controversies .Human rights organizations criticized the exam and noted that it only further supports negative, xenophobic attitudes towards immigrants in the country .The test's Kennis van de Nederlandse Samenleving (Knowledge of Dutch Society) section, which tests an immigrant's knowledge of Dutch society, has been widely criticized for its bizarre, patronizing and even inane questions. One example includes, “What would you do if you saw two men kissing on the street?” Several Dutch news organizations have aired segments or run stories where they ask life-long Dutch residents to take this section of the exam themselves. Most fail it, further proving its inability to properly represent Dutch society.

The Netherlands acceded to the European Convention on the Protection of the Rights of National Minorities with reservations. According to these reservations, only Frisians belong to national minorities in the country, on which all rights provided by European law are distributed. At the same time, large enough new communities, mostly from Asia and Africa, do not have such rights. This fits perfectly into the assimilation model of integration of migrants, but does not suit the representatives of the minorities themselves. Since 2011, integration is no longer seen as a responsibility of the government, but instead as a responsibility of the individual citizen. The government’s new integration policy signalled a move away from a multicultural to – what is often called – a mainstreaming approach.

One of the central components of this ‘mainstreaming approach’ has been the repeal of the law on the consultation of minorities (Wet Overleg Minderheden). Under this law, the National Consultation of Minorities (Landelijk Overleg Minderheden, LOM) was a statutory dialogue partner of the national government . This meant that the LOM – an umbrella organization that united eight organizations representing the eight largest (ethnic) minority communities in the Netherlands – was consulted on all policies that affect minority communities. The repeal of the law implied that, per 1 January 2015, the National Consultation of Minorities and its member organizations lost both public funding and their status as a statutory dialogue partner of the national government. The continued existence of most of these representative bodies has not been ensured. Since no appropriate alternatives have been put in place to ensure representation of minorities at governmental level, it can be feared that their voices and problems will be attended to even less than before.

All this resulted in the Netherlands dropping to the eleventh place in the MIPEX ranking due to the impact of far-right parties and austerity measures, including wide-ranging cuts to support for integration. Adding new restrictions to labour market access, and limiting political participation of migrant organisations contributes to further exclusion of migrants from host society.

As before, laws that forbade certain elements of traditional religious clothing were actively used and developed. As you know, such bans have existed in France. In Holland in November 2016, the deputies voted overwhelmingly for the prohibition of wearing women-fitting Islamic veils (burqas) in certain public places, including schools, hospitals, government buildings, and public transport. According to the law, the burka can still be worn on the streets. Women detained for violating the ban can be fined up to 405 euros. All this, of course, did not contribute to establishing trust between ethnic and religious communities.

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