According to Azmani, Dutch nationality should be seen as the “prize” of society that newcomers should work towards. “The passport should not be a self-evident right. You have to want to be one of us”, he said. “You have to grow into society. Fight your way in. Only then will you start building rights. You must show whether you have something to offer, rather than immediately hold up your hand.”
Malik Azmani is a VVD parliamentarian. VVD is the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. Malik seeks to bar out those that can not speak the Dutch language, do not know Dutch norms and values , or reject them, at the time of their asylum application.
Not many of my colleagues here at the asylum center even know of Malik Azmani. Yet you would think, considering the potency of his views and subsequent actions, this is a man who would be a person of interests to every asylum seeker. In any case, the involvement of asylum seekers in the politics that be, can then also be viewed as in per with Dutch values of democracy and tolerance.
I have attempted to understand why we are so many here in the Netherlands. I can not bring myself to understand even the most obvious of asylum seekers; say from Syria or Iraq. I am from South Sudan, but I bet you the stars will not be in my favor either. Why are some people coming here in such large numbers? One obvious answer was offered by an officer at one of the asylum processing centers who prided in the fact that his country was the best destination in Europe for “you”, referring to me. I have not had the chance to experience the adventure of validating his claim. But testimonies from Sudanese friends who have lived across Germany is as clear as it gets. The Lowlands offer much more.
So why are the Dutch the way they are? Did the Netherlands become a suitable destination for asylum seekers overnight? Why is Malik only making these new proposals now? Are some people in Dutch society taken by surprise by the influx of immigrants? I will get back to the question of what asylum seekers must offer in exchange for Dutch passport, much later, if I can.
First I would like to educate myself on the role of the Netherlands in the partition and scramble for Africa and try to draw any connections to a time in history that has now been tilted on its head. I of course had already known that the strongest connection to the continent was the Afrikaners in South Africa—because of their Dutch descendants.
My reeducation taught that: the colonies of the Afrikaners were taken over by the British as the French took what was left. The Belgians, through the personal obsession of a king, also curved out a piece of Africa much more than the Dutch. The Germans after demonstrating some military prowess during the First World War, woke up from this beautiful horror with a realisation that they too needed a piece of Africa. Africa was the in-fashion crown jewel for global supremacy.
I also learnt that the Dutch were mainly a trading nation and this was reflected in the Dutch settlements that served a singular purpose: slave trade (trade ships to South America and Asia.
It is argued in my reflex-like study that the Dutch expanded early but couldn’t hold onto their empire in the face of growing British strength. Thus, at the onset of the main scramble for Africa, the Dutch neither had the resources to compete in Africa, nor did they want to.
I would blankly also insinuate that it appears today that many African asylum seekers have ended up in the Netherlands not as a matter of choice. They are learning on the job as it is often said when you learn as you go along. This is a similar context for many other asylum seekers. Many of the stories I have heard are those of refugees who have made the heart of Europe a tourist destination. They know more corners of Europe than Angela Merkel can admit.
The Dutch may have failed to curve out a piece of Africa, because they were too busy making profits from slave trade; but Africans seem determined to fight their way in. Africans are ready to do all possible to be as Dutch as Dutch can be.
On the question of what Africans will have left to offer after becoming completely Dutch, I am torn apart. It is a similar complexity as French assimilation in Africa. The more French Africans became (French values of tolerance, language and culture), the less Africaness remained in them. Surely, in turn, these assimilated Africans had to become French; after all, many of them accepted to die alongside French soldiers in wars across the continent and globe. There is no defense of a new sense of purposeful belonging than that for which a passport becomes a mere document; because in the end, you will have given, not lost, much more than you will have earned and not gained.