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Dutch government approves participation declaration for newcomers23 December 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
Sixteen municipalities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, will go ahead with a trial to have migrants sign a "participation declaration" from January 2014.
The declaration informs immigrants from the European Union and elsewhere of their rights and obligations in the Netherlands. It also defines Dutch values, norms and freedoms.
The declaration has been on the cards since February 2013, but has now been given the go ahead as a trial.
The first iteration, however, was a contract, rather than a declaration, that was intended to bind immigrants to Dutch values.
That idea failed, as a binding contract clashes with the European Union’s law on the free movement of labour within the union.
Purpose of the participation declaration
The statement has above all symbolic value and intended to welcome immigrants into Dutch society, while stressing their rights and obligations, and the fundamental values of Dutch society.
In his letter to Parliament, Minister for Integration Lodewijk Asscher claimed it was the role of the government to ensure that it is clear to everyone who comes to the Netherlands what their rights and obligations are.
"Newcomers want to know the norms and values and what is expected of them," he wrote.
"This declaration also ensures that they find their way in Dutch society more easily and are less vulnerable to exploitation and abuse."
He added that he considered freedom, equality and solidarity to be the main concepts. Elaborating, he highlighted freedom of religion, speech and association; equal treatment of men and women and hetero- and homosexuals; and solidarity to provide for your own livelihood and the right to be supported.
He also envisaged that it would create a bond between migrant communities and Dutch society and bring them into contact with services for rapid integrations, such as language learning, the Dutch labour market and local amenities.
Who needs to sign a declaration?
The participation declaration is intended for migrants from both within and outside the European Union.
It focuses primarily on marriage and family migrants, refugees, EU migrant workers and migrants from Turkey and the former West Indies. The Dutch government considers it essential that EU migrants, as well as other foreigners, to fit well into Dutch society.
Skilled migrants are not expected to sign a declaration, nor are international students. Asscher said that skilled migrants have the various expat centres available for advice and information, while foreign students who wish to stay here are provided for by the recently launched action plan.
All non-EU migrants currently have to do the inburgeringsexamen (civic integration exams), which is designed to familiarise them with Dutch culture and language. This declaration will be in addition to the examinations.
Other European participation declarations
Other European countries have similar declarations for immigrants. Germany and Luxembourg have non-binding statements of participation, while France, Switzerland and Denmark have contracts for non-EU immigrants.
Asscher said, however, that no example was fully in line the Dutch version. He said it is unlikely that language requirements or language training will be included, or that signing the declaration will be a pre-requisite for a residence permit, as that does not include the European migrant worker, which is a target group for the declaration.
Like those from other nations, the Dutch one is not binding. Asscher said that he saw the declaration as a "moral appeal" and a positive incentive to enctive and inform intensive involvement of newcomers in Dutch society.
Read the declaration (in Dutch).