Netherlands: 3,300 African immigrants fail citizenship tests – can stay anyway

A report from Dutch media in June stated that “3,000 immigrants failed their citizenship tests so often that they are given dispensation. Failing the citizenship test does not impact their visa, they are allowed to remain in The Netherlands.”

This applies to mostly immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, countries like Ethiopia and Eritrea. If they have followed 600 hours of classes and taken the exam four times, their efforts are enough and the government ‘accepts that the bar is set too high for them’.

The report does not specify why The Netherlands has a citizenship test in the first place. It does specify that there are 81,838 loans for integration courses outstanding with the government for a total amount of over 400 million euros. 8,800 loans have been forgiven (60 million euros) and only 98 have been repaid (118,000 euros).

A citizenship test should be designed to gauge the chances of (potential) immigrants for succeeding in their host society. Understanding the language, culture and customs of a country you are moving to are prerequisites for finding your way in that society, for starting a career and contributing rather than just receiving. Ignoring the outcomes of these tests can only be described as something we do ‘out of the goodness of our hearts’, but is also something that can only backfire in the reality of a society where several thousand people are living among people they do not understand in circumstances where they are doomed to fail.

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