Background Briefing


To the Government of the Netherlands

  • Ensure that all integration and immigration policies comply with the Netherlands’ obligations under international human rights law, including the prohibition of discrimination and the right to family life, as enumerated, among others, in ICERD, ICCPR, and ECHR.

  • Abolish the civic integration examination abroad under the Civic Integration Abroad Act.

  • In the interim, and until such time as the examination is scrapped:

    o Introduce a flat fee for the integration exam abroad by requiring persons to pay only once for taking the test rather than for each attempt.

    o Allow the test to be taken remotely via phone or regionalize the exam abroad enabling people to take the exam in different regional centers in one country, for the benefit of applicants living far from Dutch consulates, or in countries without Dutch consular representation.

  • Lower the income requirements for sponsors for authorization for temporary residence (known as “MVV”) applications for family reunification and formation to 70 percent of the social assistance level (the level for certain categories prior to 2004). Sponsors under 23 years of age should be subject to income requirements reflecting the lower minimum wage for that age group. 

  • Introduce flexibility in the sustainability requirement for MVV applications for self-employed and newly-employed sponsors to allow them to demonstrate that they have the necessary income, instead of the current stringent sustainability requirement of longer-term profits and contracts. 

  • Reduce administration and processing fees for applications and the issuance of permits.

  • In addition, Human Rights Watch further encourages the Dutch government to adhere and implement in a timely manner the recommendations flowing from the UN Universal Periodic Review in April 2008 and the third report on the Netherlands of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), published in February 2008, both of which identified specific concerns and resulted in specific recommendations for steps to address the protection of fundamental rights as well as discriminatory policies and practices against migrants and the integration policy, including in the context of integration measures.

  • To the European Union

  • Member states should not adopt and implement compulsory conditions of integration abroad based on the “Dutch model,” which this briefing paper identifies as discriminatory, serving as an instrument of immigration control, and running counter to its stated purpose of efficiently promoting integration.

  • Member states should ensure that their integration measures are fully compliant with international human rights law, including the prohibition of discrimination.

  • Member states and relevant EU institutions should ensure adequate follow-up and implementation of the recommendations made in the European Parliament, report on strategies and means for the integration of immigrants in the European Union, adopted in May 2006. The Parliament should consider preparing a follow-up report taking stock of action undertaken since the publication of its report. Members of the Parliament should question the commission and council on measures taken to address the recommendations in the report, and on initiatives undertaken overall at the EU level in the area of integration.

  • The commission and the council should ensure that initiatives undertaken at the EU-level in the area of integration serve to protect and promote human rights, including the right to non-discrimination and equality.

  • The Fundamental Rights Agency should continue to monitor integration measures in EU member states and assess their compliance with the fundamental human rights norms underpinning the Union.

  • To the Council of Europe

  • ECRI should continue to monitor closely integration measures in the Netherlands and follow up with the government to ensure that its policies are consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe human rights standards.

  • ECRI should consider undertaking targeted work in the area of integration, inter alia by developing a general policy recommendation on key elements of a human rights compliant integration policy, including on best practices in integration policy in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and other Council of Europe standards distilled from its monitoring work across the Council of Europe region.

  • The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights should use the opportunity of his upcoming visit to the Netherlands to follow up on the concerns raised in this briefing paper and should further question the government of the Netherlands about migrants’ rights under the overseas integration test.

  • To the United Nations

  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should consider follow-up action to address the concerns detailed in this briefing paper, including by conducting a country visit to the Netherlands and elaborating recommendations for reforms.

  • The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants should follow up on the concerns detailed in this briefing paper and elaborate recommendations in his fields of competence.

  • The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination should use the opportunity of their upcoming reviews of the Netherlands to scrutinize the government’s approach to integration, including the Integration Abroad Act.