Constitutional law expert Hoogers: “Bosman-law reeks of symbolic legislation”

POSTED: 08/21/13 1:05 PM

Gerhard HoogersHILVERSUM – The Bosman-law will not change the influx of underprivileged Antillean youngsters into the Netherlands, constitutional law expert Gerhard Hoogers says in an interview with Jamila Baaziz of Caribisch Netwerk. “It reeks of symbolic legislation. Antillean youngsters can easily disappear into anonymity in the Netherlands. If you are deported, nothing stops you from taking the first plane back again.”

Hoogers – who researched the differences between constitutional law in the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba and who taught constitutional law in Aruba – says it is not very useful to introduce a residency-law for Antilleans. “I do not think that this will solve the problem. As long as we are linked together and as long as the Netherlands is richer and offers more attractive options, you will have to accept that a small part is going to cause trouble.”

People should not exaggerate the problem either: “It is not so that hundreds of thousands of criminal Antilleans are taking the airport by storm. It is a manageable problem.”

Demanding requirements for the residency of citizens from the Kingdom countries Curacao, St. Maarten and Aruba is possible based on Dutch law, says Hoogers. “Legally it is possible, but it is a fundamental departure from the political choices that have been made since 1954.” The Kingdom Charter deliberately contains articles that limit the free flow of citizens between the Kingdom territories. They have made it possible for the islands for years to demand requirements from European Dutch citizens. VVD-parliamentarian André Bosman is now after a similar regulation for the Netherlands.

It is not for the first time that distinctions are being made between categories of Dutch citizenship. Hoogers: “In the colonial time there were Dutch citizens and Dutch subjects.”

The articles in the Kingdom Charter diverge from the legislation in many other countries, where citizens have the right to establish themselves in all territories. “When I arrive at the Hato airport in Curacao without a residence permit, I am only allowed to stay for half a year. I do not think this is considered as discrimination in Curacao or as making a distinction between two categories of Dutch citizens,” Hoogers says.

The professor is not at all certain that the Bosman-law will indeed become law. “I think that the Second Chamber will approve it, but I wonder whether it will pass in the First Chamber. In theory the Dutch government could still stall a law after that by not ratifying it. That could happen if it would cause too much damage to the relationship with other Kingdom countries.”

Criticism from those other countries, especially from curacao, could still influence the outcome of the political debate about the initiative-law. But Hoogers does not think that these complaints will be a reason to stop the law. “The interests of the Caribbean countries to stay within the Kingdom are huge. I think that they are prepared to swallow a lot; the free access to the Netherlands is one of the most attractive aspects of the Kingdom.”

The Bosman-law requires that citizens from St. Maarten, /Curacao and Aruba who want to stay longer than six months in the Netherlands meet four conditions. They must have a job or their own company in the Netherlands, they must be able to support themselves with their own resources, they must follow a recognized education in the Netherlands or they must be part of the family of a Dutch citizen.

Only after obtaining a residence permit are citizen from the three islands able to register at a municipality and to claim social benefits.

Bosman: “Groups of Antilleans arrive in waves and governing is looking ahead. Maybe there is a new wave ready in Curacao. I want to create clarity about the importance that Antilleans who come to the Netherlands must have the ambition to succeed.”

Bosman wants to reduce the nuisance underprivileged Antilleans cause in the Netherlands. The number of Antilleans that fall in this category is not really large, but for Bosman it is about the impact of the nuisance they cause on the community. “Antilleans who are unable to meet the requirements surface later in reports about criminality and school dropout. We are talking about a 20 to 30 year history with underprivileged people. I do not want to keep swimming against the tide. The Netherlands has enough on its hands with improving the chances for the current dropouts.”

Antilleans are still welcome in the Netherlands, with or without Bosman’s law. Every Kingdom citizen is allowed to stay six months in the Netherlands without meeting the requirements. The same goes for citizens from the European Union. “Everyone is welcome in the Netherlands but to settle down, you’ll have to meet certain requirements,” Bosman maintains.

Antilleans perceive the Bosman-law as discriminatory, but Bosman disagrees. The Council of State has suggested to him to discuss in the parliament up to what point the law discriminates.

According to Gerhard Hoogers the distinction between two categories of citizens is not new. He referred already to the colonial time. “Dutch subject were not allowed to come to the Netherlands just like that. Dutch law says that citizens do not automatically have the right to travel to all parts of the Kingdom. In many other countries citizens do have that right.”

Theoretically Antilleans who are already in the Netherlands could be deported if the Bosman-initiative becomes law. They will get five years to prove that they are in the process of putting their life in order through education or work. Antilleans who get involved in criminality could be deported if they disrupt the public order. This will not happen immediately, Bosman admits.

“There is a test period of five years. If you are without work for a while there is no problem, but if you do not finish your studies and you do not find work you’ll have to go back. If your intention is to study in the Netherlands and you do not finish it, you are without a chance. What are you going to do without social benefits and without work? We will not begin sending people back immediately, but they  must realize that this will happen if they don’t behave.”

Bosman says that his initiative-law mirrors the ordinance on admission and expulsion that is in force in all three countries in the Caribbean. “They have had such a law for years, so this is nothing new. The Netherlands is late with this legislation. The islands have similar legislation,  but nobody ever talks about that,” Bosman says.

Bosman maintains that the autonomous countries are responsible for their own laws and that there is not something like Kingdom responsibility. “The Netherlands is not the Walhalla where the fried chicken flies into your mouth. The world is tough as nails and the Netherlands has a completely different culture than for instance Curacao. People in Curacao must start thinking about their own perspective for the future If you do not perceive a future in Curacao, why would you manage in the Netherlands?”

Bosman thinks it is possible for the law to go into effect by January 1, 2014. It will only apply to Antilleans who register officially in the Netherlands after the date. Bosman: “If you have lived here for ten years and you have never registered, the new law applies to you, because then you are a newcomer.”

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