Give everyone the option of becoming a dual national

Photo: NL in Canada via Twitter
Photo: NL in Canada via Twitter

Last month 102-year-old Canadian resident André Hissink hit the headlines. ‘WWII veteran, 102, gets back Dutch nationality after 70 years‘, Dutch News reported at the time. But what is great news for Mr Hissink only highlights the injustice done to so many people who wish to combine being Dutch with another nationality, says  Eelco Keij.

Some among us might have shed a tear when we saw André Hissink’s delight at becoming Dutch again. How wonderful! Who would not be happy for him? André Hissink has finally been granted his wish to die a Dutchman.

The Foundation for the Dutch Abroad, which lobbies on behalf of the one million plus Dutch citizens living outside the country, is extremely pleased with this recent development. We are proud of André’s loyal efforts for the Netherlands in the past when it mattered most. Nothing but a huge disgraceful injustice has been remedied.

At the same time the news is bitter. Very bitter.

There are thousands of other involuntary former Dutch citizens, all over the world, who are not as lucky as André. Until the day comes when the Dutch nationality legislation is modified, they will remain victims of the principle of one nationality that has been the rule in the Netherlands since 19th century. Those with two or more nationalities are the exception.

By the same token, foreigners in the Netherlands wishing to become a Dutch citizen are subject to the same restrictions: whoever naturalises to become Dutch will need to give up their original nationality (except for those who are from the handful of countries where this is not allowed, like Morocco or Argentina).

It is a situation in which there are no winners.

The Netherlands is an exception in Europe – and not in a positive way. For most European countries, and basically all western European ones, have allowed dual nationality for a while, in line with current modern times. The Netherlands, however, is stuck in the past.

Some 10 years ago a grassroots movement in New York started expressing the wish to get the law changed and introduce dual citizenship to the Netherlands. Now, after a multitude of petitions, campaigns, media publications and political lobbying, the Foundation for the Dutch Abroad has grown to a global interest organisation that has vowed to never, never give up this nationality fight.

And who knows – perhaps this is the year of change. The current cabinet’s coalition agreement clearly expresses the wish to resolve the issue. A first layer of dust has started to settle on the agreement and so far, little to nothing has been done.

This is the time to take action. Give all Dutch citizens abroad the opportunity to get dual citizenship, and claim back their Dutch nationality if they have lost it against their will

Let everyone now become André the dual national, and let no one ever become André who lost his Dutch passport again.

Eelco Keij lives in New York and is the chairman of the Foundation for the Dutch Abroad.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Trouw (June 4)

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