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With Privileges for the "Stateless", Many Syrians Became Dutch Citizens

Rosa Omar arrived in the Netherlands in 2018 to join her husband there. Three years later, she got the right to apply for Dutch citizenship, because she says she is a stateless (or unregistered) Syrian Kurd, that is, she is a Kurd without Syrian citizenship, a result of the policies of the Ba’athist state she said.

Omar says that unregistered Syrian Kurds, Palestinian-Syrians, and those like them who are classified as “stateless” are receiving special treatment. Refugees usually need to obtain a right of residence in the Netherlands, after which they have to wait five years in order to obtain permanent residence, and only after that they are entitled to apply for citizenship, provided they pass some exams, including the Dutch language exam. However, those that are “stateless” can submit their applications only three years after they had obtained the right of asylum and residence in the Netherlands.

Syrian Immigration to the Netherlands

Compared to other European countries, the Netherlands is considered one of the most lenient countries when it comes to granting citizenship to foreigners. For instance, it waives any work requirements, and the language level it requires for the application is only an A2 level (according to information obtained by Raseef22, since the language level required starting next year will become a B1 level), which tempts many immigrants to head to this small country in western Europe with a population of 17 million people.

Since the end of the seventies, a number of Syrians headed to the Netherlands to settle there, then the number increased during the eighties, nineties, and during the beginning of the new millennium, without there being official figures counting the number of Syrians during those years

At the time - that is, before 2013 - it was not easy for Syrians to obtain the right to asylum and residence, according to Abdel Salam Yousef, a Dutch Kurdish politician of Syrian origins residing in the Netherlands since 1993. He says “The Syrians at that time could not easily obtain residency. Some have been waiting for more than ten years to obtain the right to asylum, while others have faced expulsion decisions, and some stayed in courts, filing appeal after appeal for many years.”

However, according to Yousef, the situation changed after the start of the Syrian revolution and its subsequent transformation to an open war. With the increase in the number of Syrian refugees coming to Europe, and implicitly to the Netherlands, the Dutch government provided certain privileges to Syrians.

Yousef says that this had happened before, when large numbers of Iraqi refugees arrived in Europe, following refugees from Somalia and Yugoslavia, as well as Moroccans and Turks before them, and so on. The Dutch government - and European governments in general - allows refugees from a particular region when it is experiencing a war or conflict of sorts, or some special situation that results in waves of immigration and displacement.

The presence of large numbers of Syrians for a long time has contributed to some reaching important positions in the Netherlands. There were even three candidates of Syrian origin running in the latest elections for the House of Representatives; The first, Sumer Chaban, ran on the list of the Democrats 66 party, one of the largest German parties; the second, Mohammad Akari, ran on the list of the Islam-based NIDA party, the first Dutch Muslim party; while the third, Andreas Bakker, ran on the list of the right-wing Forum for Democracy Party (FvD), which agrees with policies that are against asylum seekers and immigrants, bearing in mind that none of the three succeeded in reaching the House of Representatives.

Official Numbers

According to data issued by the Netherlands Statistics Agency CBS, around 49,000 foreigners have obtained Dutch citizenship during 2020, with more than 30% of them - an estimated 15,000 people - being Syrians, in addition to those from Kurds and Palestinians who fall under the category of “stateless, or unregistered”.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Justice, the number of Syrians who had arrived in the Netherlands and submitted asylum applications reached 45,240 from 2013 to April 2021, while during the same period, 22,820 Syrians were able to obtain Dutch citizenship. It is expected that this number will rise over time, “because of the relatively easy access to the Dutch nationality compared to other European countries,” according to what university student and activist Akram Saud, who arrived in the Netherlands and applied for asylum in 2016.

For example, the Dutch Council of State refused to deport a number of Syrians carrying Greek residency, on the grounds that “the conditions of asylum seekers in Greece are inhumane, and therefore they should not be returned to that country,” despite the existence of the Dublin Regulation, which gives European states the right to return refugees to the first European country they had arrived in.

Speaking with Raseef22, Saud added that his personal experience “was very good, as there is a comfortable general view towards Syria, and Dutch policy towards Syrians is relatively good, because the government relies on alliances between parties, of which some are lenient towards refugees, and others are more hard-line, which creates a state of balance, especially since government decisions depend mainly on security reports written by technocratic people who care more about facts than political quarrels.” However Saud adds that “despite my relatively good experience, I am aware of the bad experiences, I am aware of the problems and loopholes in the Dutch system, and I see the racial discrimination that takes place in some cases.”

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