Firewalling Holland

05 Feb 2005 | 424 words | migration racism xenophobia netherlands politics

Just came across an article in todays NRC [‘import-bride has to know thorbecke’] about the dutch gouvernement moves towards requiring a Dutch language and culture exam before a person is allowed to settle in the Netherlands. not that this means that by passing the exams you have the right to settle in NL, but if you have acquired the right to settle e.g because you are married to a dutch citizen or someone who has a residence permit you still neet to pass the tests or you won’t get in. (of course all of this does not applies to citizens of the eu, Switzerland, the us, canada australia and new zealand).

So you have to pass a test on dutch history and society (mainly testing stuff that dutch people have been taught in school immediately forgotten afterwards) and a language test. the language test is suposed to be completely computerized. the test will be conducted via a telephone line form special rooms in dutch embassies and consulates around the world. the computer is not only serving the questions and judging your answers (it has to asses complex things like re-narrations of short stories which as far as i can tell is quite daunting task in itself given the current state of technology). also the verdict of the computer is final there is no possibility of appealing a verdict once given. also for each attempt at the 30 minute test euro 350 has to be paid up-front by the applicant.

If i remember it correctly my last encounter with complex speech recognition technology dates back three years or so and at that point i failed to book a train ticket via the phone answering to simple questions in my mother language. that a centralized computer system can cope with 1001 accents that it is inevitably going to encounter seems to be completely unrealistic to me. so maybe we are starting to see a new form of migration management this time with ‘objective’ computer technology acting as a filter. if this becomes practice (the system does exist but its use still needs to be authorized by parliament) you can fulfill all the legal requirements for settling in the netherlands and still not be granted entry because the computer des not get your accent (or the software fails altogether or the phone line is bad or because you are chinese and cant pronunce the R and the computer wants you to pronunce ‘gras’ (speaking of dutch culture here aren’t we) but you only manage to say ‘glas’…