Interview with Ans Zwerver: local voting rights for all foreign residents

| Geen reacties

[29/09/03 13:00:00] In her report on policies for the integration of immigrants in Council of Europe member states, Ana Zwerver, Dutch member of parliament and member of the Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, says that all immigrants should be granted the right to vote in local elections. As she told our interviewer, the right to vote gives people the sense of belonging to society. In many countries there is also opposition to the concept of dual nationality. Here we can learn from the example of the United States. Too often, she says, immigrants are seen as a threat and as potential criminals.

Question: You argue that since 11 September immigrants have been stigmatised. How does such a policy manifest itself in practice?

Ans Zwerver: Migrants are often presented in the media as a threat, sometimes even as criminals. Islam is frequently depicted as a universally fundamentalist religion. This attitude has a very direct impact on the political climate. In Holland, the integration of migrants is no longer an interior ministry responsibility but that of the justice department - thus giving the impression that this is a criminal matter. In Germany asylum seekers will have their fingerprints taken. The EU is discussing the possibility of recording data on all visitors from certain countries. Many similar examples are to be found.

Question: There are many resolutions pleading for a better immigration policy. But what really counts is what happens on the ground. Can integration courses help?
Ans Zwerver: Definitely. But they also have to be properly organised and the necessary funds made available. What is most important is for immigrants to learn the local language. But that means satisfactory courses must be on offer. Migrants need to discover how the state functions, what services are available, how the health system is organised, how to go about qualifying for different jobs and finding accommodation and what rights they have. It is not enough just to teach them the language.

Question: You emphasise the Council of Europe's call for foreigners other than just EU nationals to be given voting rights in local elections, but so far only six countries have ratified the corresponding convention.

Ans Zwerver: We mustn't give up hope. We will continue to campaign for this principle. I do not understand why there is so much opposition to allowing all migrants who are long-term residents of a country to vote in its municipal elections. It is a basic step to take which also costs nothing. The right to vote gives people the sense of belonging to society. If we are to insist on migrants becoming integrated, we must also give them the opportunity to do so.

Question: There is also is opposition to the concept of dual nationality. Is such a provision necessary?

Ans Zwerver: It is often said that immigrants should adopt their new nationality in place of their old one. But many countries of origin, such as Turkey or Morocco, do not allow their citizens to renounce their nationality. The American example shows us that dual nationality does not cause any problems. Yet every country that operates such a restrictive policy runs into difficulties.

Question: Do not many immigrants lack the will to integrate?

Ans Zwerver: No, I don't believe this. We have to draw a distinction. We cannot suddenly call on migrants to integrate when, for example, they have already been living in Europe for 20 or 30 years and have never previously been asked to learn the country's language. It's quite different with today's immigrants. They clearly have a duty to learn the language as a condition for integration. And not just that - immigrants must also accept the laws of their new states, and particularly the concept of democratic citizenship. Take the example of persons from countries where women traditionally have fewer right than men. Naturally this cannot apply in Europe, where all immigrants must acknowledge that women and men have equal rights.

Original publication at Council of Europe website

Laat een reactie achter

Dagboek Archief

Aangedreven door Movable Type 4.38