Dutch Ombudsmen: Simplify naturalization for general pardon refugees

Integration exam
Image from a video portraying students during the integration exam (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs)Image from a video portraying students during the integration exam (Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs)

Refugees who received residency to the Netherlands through a general pardon in 2007 are still having problems applying for Dutch citizenship, according to the National Ombudsman and Children's Ombudsman. This process must be simplified, they find, NOS reports.

According to National Ombudsman, the Netherlands currently counts thousands of residents who are "Dutch without a Dutch passport". This impedes their future and make them feel like second-class citizens. "This involves people, including many young adults and children, who built their lives here, speak and write Dutch and study or work here", he said, according to the broadcaster. "Therefore, now 10 years after the pardon, it must be easier for them to get Dutch nationality, with all the rights and obligations to participate as full-fledged citizens in our society."

A naturalization request is submitted to the municipality you live in and then assessed by the naturalization and immigration service IND. For such a request you need a legalized birth certificate and a valid foreign passport, but many of the involved refugees don't have these documents. The IND can decide whether there is proof that the needed documents can not be supplied, in which case the process goes faster. But municipalities are often unable to properly assess whether such a request is needed and it involves high costs, according to NOS.

The difficulty in getting Dutch citizenship also affects children who were born in the Netherlands, according to Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer. They can't attend school trips abroad, because they don't have a passport. This also means that they can't study abroad or do certain work, such as becoming a police officer. 

"These children and young adults want to be part of Dutch society, but in their daily lives they are always confronted with restrictions because they do not have Dutch nationality, which could be detrimental to their development and integration in the Netherlands. And this while they  have a residency permit", she said, according to NOS. 

About 27 thousand people were given a Dutch residency permit based on the 2007 general pardon.