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Sunday 21 December  
A handshake (Photo: FlickR/crysb)
John Tyler's picture
The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, Netherlands

Justice for latent Dutch

Published on : 15 January 2010 - 10:17am | By John Tyler
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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.”

No deportations
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.


  • Saskia van Os arriving in the Netherlands<br>&copy;
  • Protest outside parliament in The Hague: passport for latent Dutch<br>&copy;
  • Saskia den Os with the Netherlands flag <br>&copy;
  • You can&#039;t get more Dutch than this<br>&copy;


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Zoute Drop 7 April 2010 - 6:06am / Australia

This is great news, even if I might not pursue it as I do not want to give up my Oz citizenship. I have always considered it grossly unfair that even though my mother was dutch, and my grandparents were dutch, and we have always had a strong connection with Holland and all things dutch, I have had no more rights that the next person with no dutch connections whatsoever!

Debbie 18 January 2010 - 4:25am / Australia

My mother was Dutch born and migrated to Australia in 1955 when she was 16 with her parents. She married an Australian and they gave birth to us, 3 daughters. She became an Australian Citizen in the 1980's to enable her to work here. Both my parents have since passed away, as her daughter in my 40's, I am interested in obtaining an EU passport.

Anonymous 18 January 2010 - 12:14am / UK

This has been a long time's been dragging on for a while, and for us (I am one of the " latent dutch" ) it's long been a sense of injustice that our mothers have counted for nothing. At long last I won't have to say that my mother is Dutch, but rather what I've felt forever, that I am Dutch.

Anonymous 17 January 2010 - 4:47am / Australia

As Saskia was born in Australia, she will have Australian citizenship. Will she be able to have dual nationality. I am Dutch born but had to give up my Dutch nationality when I became an Austrlian citizen
which I always thought was an injustice

Eric D 17 January 2010 - 12:01am / Canada

Countries extend asylum to people who need help, and, I hope that the Netherlands will continue to do so, despite the worst efforts of xenophobes.

Anyway, this legislation is a long time coming and I cannot wait for it to come to pass for the latente Nederlanders. Provided the Eerste Kamer deals with this issue quickly this could become the law on 1-January-2011.

PS The Dutch parliament did already recognize that the discrimination against Dutch women was unjust and did offer a two year optie periode from 1985 to 1987. What the current legislation does (among other things) is make that two year period permanent. The others things this legislation does vis-a-vis dual nationality are not to be celebrated :-(

Grahame 15 January 2010 - 1:16pm / uk

It was about time the Dutch government give people born to Dutch mothers Dutch citizenship! It seems the Dutch government goes out of their way to discriminate against Dutch people while at the same time allowing thousands of asylum seekers into the Netherlands with no Dutch heritage at all! No wonder the Netherlands has become such a mess. Go figure.

jasmin 15 January 2010 - 10:23am / India

Wow! Justice for Dutch women at last...It was indeed discriminatory...What better new year gift can these families expect...My best wishes to all...

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