Thousands of people born to Dutch mothers and foreign fathers will soon be allowed to become Dutch citizens. A majority in parliament supports a change in the law making this possible.
Sometime this spring, Saskia van Os will pay one last visit to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service. Not to apply for an extension of her residency visa. This time, she will be able to turn in her application for a Dutch passport.
Ms van Os is one of an estimated 500 people currently living in the Netherlands who are half-Dutch by birth but – until now – ineligible for Dutch nationality. They have been dubbed ‘Latent Dutch’. Thousands of others who fall under this category live abroad.
Who are the latent Dutch? They are people born abroad before 1985 to a Dutch mother and a non-Dutch father. Saskia van Os was born in 1983 to a Dutch mother and Australian father. Saskia grew up in her father’s homeland, but after her parents divorced, she and her mother came to the Netherlands. Ms Van Os recalls,
“I moved here seven years ago with my mother. She is Dutch; she brought me up speaking Dutch. She was born here, and when she was in her late twenties she went on a holiday to Australia. She fell in love, married my father, and had me. Then she got divorced, I never saw the man again.”
Saskia no longer has any family ties in Australia.
Ineligible for Dutch citizenship
Saskia’s mother is Dutch through and through, and Saskia herself has a Dutch name and speaks the language like a native. And yet she herself was ineligible for Dutch citizenship under the antiquated nationalization law.
For years, there has been broad agreement among Dutch political parties that this law discriminates against women and should be changed. At long last, that is now happening.
Naima Azough is an MP for the Green Left party. She told RNW that she has known about the issue of latent Dutch people for years.
“Then I heard about Saskia and the fact that her fight to be in Holland would expire in a short while. And it dawned on me that there could be many more people here in Holland who are naturally Dutch, it would be unnatural to think that they wouldn’t have the right to become Dutch because of their Dutch mothers, but in the meantime would risk being deported to the country of their fathers.”
While the change in the law was being prepared Ms Azough persuaded Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak to promise not to deport any latent Dutch people until their legal status became clear. After many false starts, parliament has finally done just that.
For Saskia, not a moment too soon. Her latest residency permit expires at the end of February.
“I knew, I had been waiting for it for years, my mom and I would come back together. Ever since I was little, I expected it.”
Now Saskia and hundreds of others can breathe easily. Soon, they will be able to stop calling themselves latent. The Dutch state has recognised what they have known all their lives: they are Dutch. Period.