Tightening of Immigration Policy
In 2007, amid increasing xenophobia and heated anti-Muslim sentiment, Verdonk introduced an obligatory “inburgering,” or integration, test that any non-European Union and non-Western immigrant coming to the Netherlands had to pass before gaining entry. The test, which was also made mandatory for many non-EU, non-Western people who had already been living in the Netherlands, assesses an individual’s competency with the Dutch language, but also with Dutch cultural norms.
The concept of “inburgering” was actually conceived in 1995 as a way to help, if not push, immigrants to better integrate as members of Dutch society. The idea was for municipalities to provide services for immigrants, including language courses, labor orientation and counseling.
But the exam introduced 12 years later, and which remains in place today, was very controversial. Some questions were immediately flagged as overly vague and obscure—for instance, “What do you do with the fat after making French fries?” Others stressed Dutch values and policy toward homosexuality that are not compatible with traditional interpretations of Islam—such as, “What do you do if see two men kissing on the street?”
Government-funded classes were introduced to help people prepare for the integration test, but in 2013, tuitions were imposed, ranging from about $330 to $5,500. There is also a fee of about $380 to take the exam. Failing the test can mean the loss of a residency permit.
The exam and other new policies introduced since 2007—including restrictions on immigration for family reunification and the removal of a prohibition against the expulsion of immigrants who have resided in the country for 20 years or more—appear to aim to restrict immigration, rather than encourage and support newcomers to integrate successfully. In 2015, the EU-sponsored Migrant Integration Policy Index, which reports on shifts to more restrictive immigration policy in 38 different countries, dropped the Netherlands to 11th place, down from fifth just five years earlier. New immigration measures, critics argue, only serve to further isolate the Muslim population of the Netherlands, increasing the threat of radicalization.