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Doubts about identity during the naturalisation procedure

By Elles Besselsen and Danielle Snaathorst

Victor is originally from Togo. He came to the Netherlands as a minor more than twenty years ago and applied for asylum. Because Victor did not have proof of his identity and the IND had doubts about his alleged age of minority, an age test was carried out. In this age test, an estimate of his age was made based on X-rays of the growth plates in the hand/wrist area and of the collar bones. According to this test, Victor would have been at least 19 years old instead of 17 years old. His application for asylum was therefore rejected. Finally, in 2007, Victor received a residence permit on the basis of the Settlement of the Former Aliens Act Estate Scheme (Ranov).

Victor assumed that he could obtain Dutch citizenship after five years of residence in the Netherlands, but in 2009 the conditions for naturalisation were tightened and he had to show a valid passport and birth certificate to become a Dutch citizen. Victor travelled to Togo several times and tried to obtain these documents. Several Togolese nationality declarations and identity cards were issued to him. He was also issued an extract from the Togolese birth register which was subsequently legalised by the Dutch embassy. These documents confirmed the age that Victor had stated in his asylum application.

Many Ranov permit holders – just like Victor – experience structural problems in obtaining a passport and/or birth certificate and an appeal for lack of evidence rarely succeeded. In 2021 more than 10,000 Ranov permit holders therefore still did not have a Dutch passport. As a result of various studies, motions in the Dutch parliament and media attention, Ranov permit holders were eventually exempted from presenting a birth certificate and passport in the naturalisation procedure as of 1 November 2021. This seemed like great news for Victor.

However, Victor’s naturalisation request was rejected due to doubts about his identity and nationality. Although Victor’s birth certificate and identity cards were found to be genuine, the IND concluded that these documents contained false information. According to the IND, his age was not correct on these documents, as the age analysis would have shown that Victor was two years older. Although Victor has been registered as a resident of the Netherlands for twenty years with the same personal details, works, pays taxes, is married and has become a father with the same personal details, the doubts about his identity remained.

An appeal was lodged against the decision of the IND. In that procedure, the X-rays from the 2000 age test were reassessed. The radiologists concluded that Victor’s collarbone had not fully developed in 2000 and that his stated age could be correct after all. This definitively removed the doubts about his identity.

Victor recently attended the naturalisation ceremony. He is now a Dutch citizen. After more than twenty years in the Netherlands, he finally feels like a fully-fledged member of Dutch society.

Do you not have a birth certificate and/or a passport and do you want to know what your options are for becoming a Dutch citizen? Or do you have other questions regarding naturalisation? Please contact us.

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