March 8th, 2007 - Dual nationality row in Dutch parliament
On the same night that in Britain, frontbench Tory MP Patrick Mercer was forced to resign from the House of Commons over his comments on race issues in the Armed Forces, here in The Netherlands an emergency debate was held in parliament over an uglier kind of race-related question.
Far right wing MP Geert Wilders is demanding that two of his colleagues renounce their second nationality. The controversial former Minister for Immigration Rita Verdonck, who was at the centre of the row over withdrawing Dutch nationality from former Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, called upon all Dutch citizens in possession of a second passport to emphasize their loyalty to the Netherlands by giving up their other nationality.
Mr. Wilders and his Party For Freedom, an offshoot of the party of murdered politician Pim Fortuyn, won no less than nine seats in the 150 seat Lower House last November, pretty much on the single issue of ‘how do you solve a problem like the Moslems’. The seats gained by the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) included one for Turkish-born MP Nebahat Albayrak, State Secretary for Justice in the new government. The Turkish constitution apparently contains a clause to the effect that Turkish citizen owe exclusive allegiance to the State of Turkey till their dying day, which according to Mr. Wilders is irreconcilable with Albayrak’s role as a Dutch government official.
The emergency debate was held in the Lower House at the joint instigation of the Party For Freedom and the Dutch Conservatives (VVD). The occasion was the appointment of another Labour MP, Khadija Arib, a Moroccan national, to a Moroccan High Commission for Human Rights. The Commission has been established by King Mohammed VI with the aim of safeguarding the rights of some three million Moroccans abroad and strengthening their ties with the fatherland. Ms. Arib is a human rights lawyer with twenty years of outstanding service in the field. During the debate, Mr. Wilders latched on to comments made by Ms. Arib on the current affairs programme Netwerk. She had claimed to have ‘no loyalty towards either Morocco or the Netherlands, only to her principles’, and had further stated to hang on to her Moroccan nationality so that ‘in the event Mr. Wilders comes to power, I still have somewhere to go’. This, according to Mr. Wilders, constituted anti-Dutch sentiment unbefitting an MP. The somewhat milder VVD representatives stated that Ms. Arib’s intended position, even if only advisory, would send the wrong message to the immigrants in Holland.
International law on the subject of nationality states quite clearly that work in the field of human rights does not constitute disloyalty to one’s country as it serves a higher goal.
Both Green and Labour MPs called Mr. Wilders a bigot and his comments and insinuations scandalous. A Dutch MP who had held a high-ranking position in Taiwan was not up for debate, so why pick on the Moslem colleagues? Ms. Arib was visibly shaken by the attack on her person and integrity. Though Wilders was outnumbered by far and termed ‘a lone crusader’, public support for Wilders has soared in the polls.
I for one am now totally confused. For at least the last four years, Dutch immigration policy has consisted of returning people to their homelands, whether forcibly - by deportation - or more gently - by encouraging them to leave and supplying them with microfinance to start up a business back home. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but how can someone return to somewhere he no longer belongs because he has given up his citizenship of that country? So what message might the VVD have been talking about, one wonders? It can’t be that immigrants have no business maintaining ties with their fatherland because getting rid of them was their idea! Or is the message that immigrants have no human rights in Holland? Maybe part of the policy of ‘encouraging’ them to leave?
I’m on Arib’s side. Glad to have somewhere else to go, I mean, should things get worse. I’d rather be in a place where you get sacked for stirring up xenophobic sentiment than in one where you get elected for the same thing. And am I the only one reminded of the Baron von Münchhausen by Mr. Wilders appearance and hanging on to an illusion of Dutch identity that, if it ever existed, has been handed over lock stock and barrel to Europe? If he wasn’t such a dangerous demagogue, he’d be hilarious.