Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Amersfoort and Den Bosch are among the Dutch towns and cities to start experimenting with ensuring new immigrants, including EU citizens, sign a ‘participation declaration’.
Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said in a briefing to MPs on Thursday evening the cabinet is pressing ahead with its plans to introduce participation contracts to ensure migrants are aware of the ‘basic principles of Dutch society.’
However, although Asscher wants the contract to apply to nearly all categories of immigrants and expats, signing it ‘cannot be made compulsory’ and there are ‘no realistic options open to make signing compulsory for EU citizens,’ he said.
Instead, ‘during the pilot phase, on a national and local level, we will look at how to prevent the contract being too optional,’ the minister said. The pilot phase, involving 18 local councils, will last a year. As well as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, a number of areas with large concentrations of migrant farm workers have also signed up for the trials.
Signing the declaration will welcome new migrants into Dutch society, will strengthen ties between new arrivals, councils and society and ensure migrants are better informed about the risks of being exploited, Asscher said.
People coming to the Netherlands under the highly-skilled migrant scheme will not be required to sign the declaration. Nor will international students. People will be asked to sign when they register with the local authority but it will be up to councils themselves to determine how to do this.
‘I see the participation declaration as a moral appeal and as a positive stimulus to encourage newcomers to play an intensive part in our society,’ Asscher said.
The document states that ‘in the Netherlands, all citizens are treated equally’ and that discrimination is not accepted.
‘In the Netherlands, we ask citizens to help each other and to support each other if necessary,’ it states. The document continues: ‘In the Netherlands, we ask all citizens to contribute to a pleasant and safe society, for example, by working, going to school or doing voluntary work. Speaking Dutch is very important in this.’
The declaration ends with the signatory saying they have taken note of these Dutch values and will play an active part in Dutch society.
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