Dutch Court Voids Language Test for Some Migrants

Anrica Deb, AP, July 19, 2008

A Dutch court punched a hole in toughened immigration restrictions, ruling an illiterate Moroccan woman cannot be required to pass a Dutch language test to join her husband in the Netherlands.

The order dismayed politicians who have sought to curb immigration from non-Western countries and they vowed Friday to fix the law to cover the loophole exposed by the Amsterdam District Court.

On the other side, the ruling was applauded by rights activists who say the government should scrap the requirement entirely, which they say is discriminatory and violates international human rights law.

Faced with public outrage over Islamic radicalization and the religion-motivated murder of a Dutch filmmaker, parliament enacted a tough law in 2005 requiring immigrants to pass an exam on the Dutch language and culture before they are granted a visa.

The Amsterdam court, however, found the test requirement was omitted from a clause referring to family reunification and ruled in favor of an unidentified North African woman who had been rejected for a visa.

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Human rights groups have denounced the culture requirement because it applies only to immigrants from Third World nations, such as Turkey, Morocco, India and China. Family members from industrial countries like the U.S., Japan and Australia are exempt.

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The Christian Democrat Alliance, the largest party in the governing coalition, said it was determined to overturn the ruling, either through a judicial appeal or new legislation.

“We think that when you start here, you have to know something about the values over here,” said Chantal van den Berg, a party spokeswoman.

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