The citizenship test which immigrants have to take to live in the Netherlands or to acquire Dutch nationality has the opposite effect to stimulating integration, according to a researcher at Nijmegen’s Radboud University.
Ricky van Oers, who has written her doctoral thesis on the subject, says 25% of people who take the test fail it, and a significant portion ignore it altogether.
‘Think about traumatised refugees, the illiterate, the disadvantaged and the elderly,’ Van Oers told Trouw. ‘The barrier to taking this test, which people now have to pay for themselves, is too high.’
In 2002, 29,000 immigrants became naturalised Dutch citizens but since the test was introduced their number has halved. ‘The test does not help integration. Instead it is selective,’ Van Oers said.
The tests were introduced 10 years ago.
Van Oers interviewed 163 immigrants for her thesis as well as 51 council officials and policymakers. In particular, the high cost of following courses and of naturalisation are a barrier she said.
‘If you and your family want to become naturalised, it can cost you thousands of euros,’ she said.
‘Because of the financial barrier the test creates, and the level it demands, many immigrants are hesitant to acquire Dutch nationality,’ she says. ‘It is impossible to quantify how big this group is, but I can say it exists.’
Van Oers said there are also doubts about the value of questions posed in the test. ‘Take questions like “what should you do if you see two men kissing in the street and it disturbs you”,’ Van Oers said. ‘There is no right answer to a question like that but yet only one answer is considered to be correct.’
Questions like these are trying to assess if new Dutch nationals are liberal enough, she said. ‘But that contradicts the principle that this is a country where everyone is free to be themselves, as long as they don’t break the law.’