People claiming basic welfare payments (bijstand) will be required by law to speak Dutch or face losing their benefits from next year, if legislation from the VVD Liberal party becomes law.
MP Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, who is behind the initiative, hopes the bill will be passed by both houses of parliament this year. The idea was first mooted in 2010 and the proposal is currently being amended in line with recommendations from the Council of State advisory body.
The initiative is supported by the Christian Democrats and anti-Islam PVV. The three parties have a very slim majority in parliament. Liberal democratic party D66 is also inclined to support the measure ‘if properly worked out’, MP Fatma Koser Kaya told website nu.nl.
Van Nieuwenhuizen said the language requirement should apply to everyone, regardless of origin. The level of Dutch would be in line with that required to pass the integration test, she told the website.
‘But if people don’t cooperate, after six months they can lose 20% of their benefits and after that 40%. Eventually the benefit can be stopped altogether,’ she said.
Labour, the Socialists and left-wing greens GroenLinks say the measure is unnecessary because claimants already have to prove they are doing all they can to find a job.
This means they already need to learn the language and can lose benefits if they refuse to take classes.
It is not clear if the measure would also apply to poor pensioners who claim bijstand because their pensions are too small. Some 90% of the 38,000 pensioners who claim welfare are immigrants who do not meet the 50-year residency rule.
MPs are due to debate the number of immigrants claiming welfare benefits with junior social affairs minister Paul de Krom later on Thursday.
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