Discussion Law on Movement of People

THE HAGUE--Dutch Minister of Immigration, Integration and Asylum Gerd Leers wants to follow his own course in the negotiations with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to come to an arrangement on movement of people within the Kingdom.

The law, an initiative of the liberal democratic VVD party to restrict the registration of Antilleans in the Netherlands, will create unnecessary pressure on the negotiations with the overseas partners, Leers said in a meeting with the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations on Monday. He said it made no sense to "chase the cat up the curtains."

The Minister didn't reject VVD's pending law initiative, but merely requested time so he could conclude negotiations and the work group could present its findings before the next Kingdom Conference in August.

"Every party has the right to submit an initiative law. I appreciate and respect that, but try to understand that I am trying to come to an agreement with the other partners in the Kingdom. I understand your impatience, but I want to ask you to grant me the time to arrange this," he said.

The VVD law initiative, which was announced last week Friday, seeks to regulate the registration of immigrants from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in The Netherlands. People from these islands will have to comply with a number of requirements if they want to register in a Dutch municipality. They must, among other things, have sufficient education, have jobs, have command of the Dutch language and they cannot have criminal records.

According to Leers, the Dutch Caribbean countries are willing to bring the issue of movement of persons to a "good end." He mentioned that even Curaçao had agreed to participate in the work group that is looking at the movement of goods and people in the Kingdom. Aruba and St. Maarten had already agreed to such a work group before. "We all want clear rules that are manageable and that make sense."

Member of Parliament (MP) Martijn van Dam of the Labour Party PvdA suggested that the VVD had announced its law initiative because the governing party was "discontented" with the current pace of drafting the Law on Movement of People Within the Kingdom (Rijkswet Personenverkeer). He even considered the law initiative a "motion of no-confidence against VVD's own cabinet," as the Minister already was working on the matter.

MP André Bosman of the VVD said the law initiative would not obstruct the trajectory of the Law on Movement of People Within the Kingdom, as these were two separate issues. The law initiative specifically regulates the registration of immigrants from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in The Netherlands, while the Movement of People Law deals with the (free) movement of people within the Kingdom. He said all countries in the Kingdom could come with their own rules for registering immigrants.

Responding to a question by MP Wassila Hachchi of the democratic D66 party why the VVD was so impatient, Bosman said: "You better ask why only now." He explained that it concerned an initiative more than 30 years old. In December 1980, then MP Erica Terpstra of the VVD submitted a motion requesting that the Dutch Government enter into talks with the Antillean Government to mitigate the "excessive migration" of Antilleans to the Netherlands.

The current VVD law initiative will not restrict the migration of residents of the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to The Netherlands, as the islands are part of the Dutch Constellation. However, Minister Leers didn't want to confirm this definitely, as he wanted to await the outcome of the talks with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.

MP Eric Lucassen of the Party for Freedom PVV had asked whether the principle of reciprocity would be applied also for the islands' residents, considering the current restrictions for European Dutch to live on the islands.

7 February 2012

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