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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.

Dutch authorities remain unwilling to implement a recommendation by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to put in place a comprehensive strategy to ensure that everyone, including undocumented migrants, enjoys the minimum essential levels of all Covenant rights (such as the rights to food, housing, health, water and sanitation) and ensure this is supported by adequate funding.

Furthermore, there are concerns that antiterrorism measures may have detrimental effects on human rights.[1]

On February 7, 2017, the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer) adopted three laws related to combatting terrorism as part of the fulfillment of the country’s Integral Approach Jihadism Action Programme. The program’s aim “is to protect democracy based on the rule of law, to combat and weaken the jihadist movement in the Netherlands, and remove the breeding ground for radicalization.” [2]

Regarding revocation and withdrawal of citizenship, two new provisions inserted in article 14 of the Dutch Nationality Act state: 1) that the Minister of Justice may revoke the Dutch citizenship of a person 16 years of age or older who voluntarily enters the armed services of a state involved in combat operations against the Kingdom or against an alliance of which the Kingdom is a member; and 2) that, in the interest of national security, the Minister may withdraw the Dutch citizenship of a person who has attained 16 years of age and who is outside the Kingdom, if it appears that he has joined an organization that is on a list of organizations participating in a national or international armed conflict and that poses a threat to national security. These measure does not require definitive proof that an individual has joined a terrorist organization, only evidence that the person has made plans to become a member, and because it is illegal to leave a person stateless, it can only be used on people who have dual citizenship in the Netherlands and another country. The changes also make it easier to ban entry to the Netherlands and to require terrorism suspects to register with authorities. However, the Amendment Law also inserts in the Nationality Act a new section on legal protection for those persons whose citizenship has been revoked. For example, a person may directly lodge an appeal with the district court of the Hague to challenge the revocation order.

The Senate also adopted a new law, effective March 1, 2017, on several administrative measures that the government can impose on the basis of practices that can be tied to terrorist activities or the support of such activities. The Minister of Security and Justice is authorized under this new Law to restrict the freedom of movement of an individual for purposes of national security if the person’s conduct can be related to terrorist activities or the support thereof, by requiring the person to report to the police, by imposing a ban on the person’s being located in the vicinity of certain specific objects or in a certain part or parts of the Netherlands, or by prohibiting the individual from being in contact with one or more specific persons. In addition, provided that it is necessary to protect national security, the Minister may impose a ban on a person’s leaving the country when there are justifiable reasons for assuming that he or she wants to travel from the Schengen Area to join a terrorist organization.[3]

The third law adopted on February 7 2017 amends the Dutch Passport Act in order to regulate matters related to the travel ban in the Interim Law on Counterterrorism Administrative Measures and to the Integral Approach Jihadism Action Programme. This third law provides that passports and identity cards will expire automatically when a ban from leaving the country is imposed by the Minister of Security and Justice. The aim is to prevent persons from leaving the country to travel to jihad areas.[4]

In June 2017, the Senate voted in a legislative amendment which states that all immigrants to the Netherlands must sign a pledge to uphold and support Dutch values as part of their integration exam.[5] This pledge is specifically aimed at asylum seekers, and people who move to the Netherlands "in the context of family formation or family reunification."[6]

From April 2017, refugees with a residency permit have no longer priority for social housing.[7]

In July 2017, the law on the Intelligence and Security Services was adopted. It gave sweeping surveillance powers to intelligence and security services, threatening the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination. Safeguards against abuse of these powers were insufficient. Serious concerns remained about the possibility of information-sharing with intelligence agencies in countries that might use such information to target human rights defenders and government opponents.[8]

In 2018, a law was passed banning the wearing of face-covering clothing in certain public places. It expectedly aroused the discontent of the Muslim population, because it contains direct references to the burqa and the niqab. The parliamentary debate on tougher hate speech legislation was provocative and focused on hate speech by a radical imam, but did not similarly cover hate speech by public figures from the majority population. Similarly, the debate over a possible foreign funding transparency law focused on foreign funding of mosques, but not places of worship of other religions.

The debate over a possible foreign funding transparency law was similarly focused on foreign funding of mosques, but not places of worship of other religions.


[6] The amendment was proposed by Minister Lodewijk Asscher of Social Affairs. "The statement of participation makes newcomers aware of the unalterable rights and duties and the fundamental values of Dutch society. For us, these rules are obvious, for newcomers often not. It is therefore important that we are very clear about this from the very first day." Ibid.

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