Dutch Caribbean Parliaments object to double language test

THE HAGUE–The Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten submitted and defended an amendment on Wednesday to eliminate the double language test as part of the naturalisation procedure. They did so during the handling of the law proposal to adapt the Kingdom Law Dutch Nationality to extend the terms to issue the Dutch nationality in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

The amendment in question was drafted by Member of the Aruba Parliament Andin Bikker of the PDR party, and co-signed by Members of Parliament (MPs) Rene Herdé and Desiree de Sousa-Croes (both AVP Aruba), Ady Thijsen (MEP Aruba), Glenn Sulvaran (independent Curaçao) and Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo (both independent St. Maarten).
The amendment deals with the double language test that was introduced in 2011 in order to be naturalised and obtain the Dutch citizenship. The Dutch Caribbean MPs fiercely objected to the test that was introduced in January 2011 by law as part of the naturalisation procedure to obtain the Dutch nationality.
The amendment aims to eliminate this double language test and to return to the old situation where the test was allowed in one language, where participants could also choose Papiamento or English. According to the countries, this double test is disproportionate, unfair and unnecessary.
MP De Sousa-Croes remarked that the Dutch language is very difficult, especially for the immigrants from Latin America who come to Aruba to work. “You barely hear the Dutch language in Aruba. We who were born in Aruba learn the language in school, but for a foreigner it is extremely difficult to learn at a later age. Dutch is a school bench language,” she said.
Sulvaran said a vast majority of the people in Curaçao don’t speak the Dutch language. “Fluency is hard because you don’t speak Dutch often enough. The double language test is very hard and is a bit like Chinese for many. The test is more of a means to exclude people than to include and integrate them. The people who take this test are already part of society because they speak Papiamento,” he said.
Marlin-Romeo said that for St. Maarten, taken into account should be the fact that both Dutch and English language are defined as the official languages in the Country’s Constitution. An important aspect is also St. Maarten’s “demographic reality” and the languages taught at school. “The command of one of these languages already proves sufficient connection with the community and culture,” she said.
Official languages
Sulvaran mentioned his motion that was adopted by the Second Chamber in 2009 during the constitutional reform process which earmarked Dutch, English, Papiamento and Frisian as the official languages of the Kingdom. He denied existing fears that naturalised foreigners use the newly acquired Dutch nationality to migrate to the Netherlands. “If I am correct, it concerns only a small number of people. The majority wants to stay on the islands, build a life.”
De Sousa-Croes cited figures of the naturalisation procedure in Aruba. In 2010, before the double language test was implemented, 2,090 people asked to do the test in Papiamento. In 2011, after the double language test was introduced, 150 people filed a request to do the test. In 2014, this number had dwindled to 90, and in 2015 it concerned a total of 120 people.
Every year, some 1,500 people from Latin America come to Aruba to work, De Sousa-Croes explained. However, most of those immigrants cannot obtain the Dutch nationality because the procedure is too hard. She asked State Secretary of Security and Justice Klaas Dijkhoff about the objective when the law was changed in 2011. “Was that objective integration and participation?”
Bikker spoke of the double language test as a “disproportionate” measure which excluded people in the Aruba community instead of integrating them. “That can never have been the intention of the law change per 2011.” Bikker gave Belgium, also an European Union (EU) member, as an example where in certain bilingual jurisdictions the command of only one language was required to obtain the Belgian nationality.    
Residency by investment
The second amendment that the three islands submitted seeks to create an exemption in the adapted Kingdom Law for the current policies in the Dutch Caribbean for investors and wealthy pensioners who can obtain a residency permit through investment and request the Dutch nationality after five years.
MP Sulvaran explained that under Curaçao’s current investment policy people from abroad who invest up to NAf. 500,000 receive a residency permit for three years. For investments up to NAf. 750,000 a residency permit of five years is granted. An investment of more than NAf. 1.5 million provides an indefinite residency permit. Increasing the naturalisation term from five to seven years would scare off these potential investors.
MP Marlin-Romeo expressed support on St. Maarten’s behalf for the amendment to maintain a five year term, instead of the seven years as stated in the law proposal, in order to keep “bonafide, potential” investors and pensioners since this would have a positive effect on St. Maarten’s economy. St. Maarten currently doesn’t have a residency through investment policy, but the local government is contemplating such a programme, which would also help to diversify the economy.
According to Sulvaran, the residency through investment policy has been beneficial for Curaçao. From late 2014 to February this year, 44 investors and 156 affluent pensioners made use of the regulation. With an average investment of NAf. 500,000, this means that NAf. 25 million was invested in the past 16 months, which is good for the local economy, he said.
MP Bikker explained that there were several countries in the EU that have a residency/citizenship by investment programme in place. He said that in Cyprus investors obtain citizenship at once when they participate, in France after five years and in Malta after two. “An extension in the law from five to seven years will brand Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten unattractive for investors making use of these facilities,” he said.
Unlike some of their colleagues of the Second Chamber, the Parliamentarians of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten didn’t have a specific problem with the prolongation of the term for naturalisation from five to seven years. This extension more so affects the Netherlands where the term is currently five years.
The Dutch Caribbean countries already have a system in place whereby a person must live on the island for ten years to qualify for an indefinite residency permit, at which time the person can also apply for the procedure to acquire the Dutch nationality. “In that sense, we are stricter than the Netherlands,” said De Sousa-Croes.
Various Dutch MPs described the Dutch nationality as a “great good, something to be proud of” and “a privilege” for which one has to work hard. The Socialist Party (SP), ChristianUnion (CU), the green left party GroenLinks, the democratic D66 party and Group Kuzu/Öztürk vehemently objected to the extension from five to seven years for naturalisation. The parties said the extension would result in a further exclusion of a group of people and prevent them from full-fledged integration into the Dutch society.  
Warm welcome
Almost all colleagues of the Second Chamber extended a warm welcome to the special delegates of the Dutch Caribbean Parliaments seated in the plenary hall. “It is nice to have you here,” said Chairperson Helma Neppérus. “Finally some more diversity and colour in this plenary hall,” said Tanahan Kuzu of the Group Kuzu/Öztürk.
“It is a privilege to have you at this debate,” said Member of the Second Chamber Kees van der Staaij of the reformed Christian SGP party, who suggested that the Dutch Parliament also take the interests of the islands into account when the overseas colleagues were not present at the handling of Kingdom laws.
Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (D66) said he found it “very special” to have the Parliaments of the islands present at the debate. “It is a first step. It is much better to have you here physically present, even though you are in our thoughts when you are not here for the handling of a Kingdom Law,” he said.
The handling of the Kingdom Law proposal, the second term, continued late Wednesday evening.

Source: Daily Herald
Dutch Caribbean Parliaments object to double language test